Ask the Chief: Ceremonies in the Life of a naval ship, part 3

Change of Command

A Change of Command ceremony is one of the major ceremonies in the life of a naval ship. It continues the line of authority from commissioning to decommissioning. The level of detail for each ceremony is such that it preserves the level of respect for authority. Rehearsal instills all parts of the ceremony are conducted in an orderly fashion. The crew, in full dress uniform is assembled in ranks, enlisted, Chief Petty Officers and Officers. Side boys, an honor guard, color guard and as available, bands are paraded. Once visiting guests and dignitaries are seated, the official party arrives, to the accompaniment of proper honors. After invocation, the Senior-in-Command, whether Commodore, Station or Fleet Commander will make some remarks and then the officer being relieved will speak. After some presentation of awards, the new Commanding officer will state “I relieve you, sir.” and the outgoing, “I stand relieved”. Each officer reports to their senior officer. of the transfer of authority. The incoming Commanding Officer will read his (her) orders, and then ceremony concludes with the departure of the official party.


The least of ceremonies in the life of a naval ship is decommissioning. The Commanding Officer makes some brief remarks, and the flag and commissioning pennant are lowered. There may be some awards, brief remarks from the authority- such as the naval shipyard – accepting the vessel.

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