The Change of Command Ceremony

The change of command ceremony is rooted in military history dating back to the 18th Century. At that time, organizational flags were developed with color arrangements and symbols unique to each particular unit. The flag served as a rallying point and reminder of their allegiance to their leader during battle. To this flag and it commander, military members dedicated their loyalty and trust. When a change of command took place, the flag was passed to the individual assuming command in the presence of the entire unit. All unit members could witness their new leader assume responsibility and trust associated with the position of commander. He who possessed the flag also held the unit members’ allegiance. The symbolic tradition has survived throughout military history.

Below is a generic skeleton of events often used in a change of command ceremony:

Entrance of Official Party
(Ruffles and Flourishes/General’s March, if appropriate)
Present the Command
Advance the Colors
National Anthem
Post the Colors
Present Decorations
Invocation (optional)
Official Change of Command
Publish Retirement Orders (if appropriate)
Present Spouse’s Certificate of Appreciation
Remarks (Presiding Officer, Outgoing Commander, Incoming Commander)
Retire the Colors (optional)
Official Party Departs
Air Force Song
Receiving Line/Welcome reception (newly appointed Commander only)

During ceremonies, all civilians (men and women) should stand during the playing of Ruffles and Flourishes (if used), during the playing of the National Anthem, the reading of the change of command (and retirement, if used) orders, during award presentations, during the playing of the Air Force Song, and as the official party departs.