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Friday, November 4, 2011

Kuwait Chronicle III

Change of Command
It's kind of a big deal, and people know it...when it's time to send one group home and welcome in another, the military branches all like to incorporate a certain degree of pomp and circumstance.  In the case of the turnover of the Expeditionary Medical Facility Kuwait from the hands of the Navy, the hospital not only received a new commander, it received a new name: the US Military Hospital Kuwait.  The 325th Combat Support Hospital (FWD) took the reins officially in a ceremony with a melding of Navy pomp and Army circumstance.

The Naval tradition for change of authority dates back to the Civil War, and apparently not much has changed over all that time.  The new commander and the outgoing commander walk to the ceremonial area together and are "piped aboard" by the boatswain's mate. There is typically an honor guard to parade the colors, the singing or playing of the national anthem, and an invocation. The outgoing Commander usually makes a speech and then reads the orders that detach the officer and crew from whatever the present duty assignment.  Such was exactly the case with the Expeditionary Medical Facility Kuwait.

For Army change of command (COC), the ceremony dates to the 18th century.  It is usually led by the battalion commander and battalion command sergeant major.  With the soldiers in formation, the master of ceremonies recounts the history of the unit and a bio of the incoming and outgoing commanders. The guidon is exchanged between the first sergeant, outgoing commander, incoming commander, and the battalion commander.  The orders to assume command are read aloud followed by a short speech by the incoming/outgoing commanders and battalion commander...no whistles involved. 

The mash-up of the Army and Navy change of command/authority worked well despite the lack of an Army band or the deck of a ship.  The finest traditions of each service branch were observed enough to satisfy all the participants.  In the end, the mission goes on under the same colors of red, white and blue: provide excellent medical care for our warriors.

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