Customarily the CO delivers a short speech.
The speech usually touches on the work of the
building yard, the name of the ship, the history
of any previous ships of the same name, and other
items of interest.
If the state, city, or sponsor intends to make
a presentation of silver or another gift, this
portion of the ceremony then takes place. A
benediction by the ship or yard chaplain concludes
After the ceremony, the officers wardroom,
chief petty officers (CPOs) mess, and crews
mess host a reception or luncheon to entertain the
This ceremony provides an impressive and
fitting way for a new ship to enter the U.S.
Following U.S. Navy Regulations, a com-
manding officer about to be relieved of command
will, at the time of turning over command, call
all hands to muster. With the crew at quarters,
the commanding officer reads the orders of
detachment and relinquishes command to the
prospective commanding officer, who then
assumes command as directed.
The change-of-command ceremony, which is
rich in naval tradition, is quite formal. The
turnover of a Navy command is the formal
passing of responsibility, authority, and account-
ability of command from one officer to another.
With all hands at quarters, with officers and
crew in ranks, the senior officer participating in
the ceremony parades and readies for inspection
an appropriate guard. Guests are seated.
Although the main purpose of the ceremony is
the turnover of responsibility from one officer
to another, it provides the outgoing CO the
opportunity to say goodbye to the officers and
enlisted personnel. It also provides an opportunity
for the new CO to greet the crew. Normally, the
uniform should be full dress with swords for
participants and service dress for military guests.
After the reading of orders, the departing CO
turns to the relieving officer and says, Sir
or Maam, I am ready to be relieved. The
prospective CO steps forward, reads the orders
of assignment to command, faces the departing
CO, salutes, and says, Sir or Maam, I relieve
you. The unit commander, if present, is saluted
by the new CO, who says, Sir or Maam, I report
for duty. The new CO makes a few brief
usually confined to wishing the
departing CO well and stating that all orders of
his or her predecessor remain in effect. After the
exchange-of-command salute, the old commission
pennant is lowered and a new one broken. The
old commission pennant is then presented to the
departing CO. As with the ship commissioning
ceremony, the officers wardroom, CPOs mess,
and crews mess usually host a reception.
Few occasions stir the emotions of people
more than a formal naval ceremony. Most of
these ceremonies instill a great amount of pride
in our naval service for all who attend.
In your naval career you will attend many
formal ceremonies. No matter what role you fill,
take a moment to look around you to reflect on
the traditions and customs that have been carried
on for many years. These traditions and customs
will make you proud to be a part of the greatest
Navy in the world.
United States Navy Regulations, 1990, Depart-
ment of the Navy, Office of the Secretary,
Washington, D.C., 1990.
Mack, W.P., and R.W. Connell, Naval Cere-
monies, Customs, and Traditions, 5th ed.,
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Md., 1980.
Mack, W.P., and T.D. Paulsen, The Naval
0fficers Guide, 9th ed., Naval Institute Press,
Annapolis, Md., 1983.