Change of Command Season

  • Published
  • By Maj. Brian Moore
  • 21st Space Wing
“I assume command.”

These words will be spoken in many squadrons, groups, and wings around the globe this summer and they represent a distinct transition for these units.

Commander transitions are traditionally accomplished with a Change of Command ceremony. During most Change of Command ceremonies, a brief history of the ceremony is given, but what does it mean? Sure, it is a traditional event, but why is it important in today’s Air Force to have a Change of Command ceremony? And what is your role during this transition?

At a Change of Command ceremony, command is officially transferred from the outgoing to incoming commander. It is in this moment that all the official duties are transferred. All the subordinate commanders and their personnel now report to the new commander. All official direction, taskers, and correspondence are now the purview of the new commander. From the moment when the unit guide-on is passed to the new commander, he or she is now responsible for the unit’s mission. He or she is now responsible for the people of that unit.

This is arguably the most important aspect of the Change of Command ceremony. Regardless of the unit’s mission, a clear chain of command is essential for successful operations. There must be no doubt within the unit on who is in command.

This clean break from the old commander is not to insult or reduce the tenure of the previous commander, it is to put the unit in the best position to move forward, without interruption, under the direction of the new commander.

During the first few days, the new commander will likely communicate to the unit their vision for the future. Expect the new commander to make changes. The commander will not make these changes in a vacuum. You have the ability to shape these changes.

In the days and weeks following the assumption of command, it is your responsibility to educate and inform the new commander of your roles and responsibilities. Work through your chain of command to provide information and data to your new commander in an orderly, consolidated manner. Through this process, you enable the commander to make informed decisions to move the unit forward. From these decisions, you will see changes.

Do not fight or resist these changes simply because they are new or different. Embrace these changes as it provides the unit an opportunity to grow and improve.

These changes highlight one of the key benefits to the steady rotation of commanders through units. It helps to avoid stagnation and satisfaction with the status quo. A change of command usually includes an influx of new ideas and a fresh vision for what the unit should and can be. This should reenergize you and the unit to further innovate.

Priorities of commanders also differ. This provides you an opportunity to readdress issues or restart initiatives you feel will be beneficial to the unit. This is not to say that the outgoing or incoming commander’s priorities are right or wrong, just different. If you have an idea or initiative that you feel is valuable and, for whatever reason, was not implemented, a new commander can provide a new opportunity to implement your idea.

So as your commanders change over this summer and beyond, take a moment to look inward at yourself. Ask yourself what new opportunities does this present? What can I do to help my commander and my unit during this transition period? Absorb and internalize the unit’s transition towards the future and your role in facilitating that transition.