Friday, January 25, 2008
Changing of Commands
Of the highlights in an officer's career, among the most cherished is his time as a company commander. This is generally an 18-24 month period, after 5-8 years of service. The size of a company ranges from about 70 (the size of a typical tank company) to more than 200 (the approximate size of our forward support company, which includes mechanics, fuelers, cooks, etc.). A commander is especially fortunate if he has the opportunity of commanding his company in combat. A young lieutenant--fresh out of college and his officer basic course--looks forward to getting to his first unit and the sudden and serious responsibility of being a platoon leader. As a platoon leader, he often looks up to his first company commander and sees him as a mentor. He watches his commander very closely. He knows if he performs well, in the coming years he will have the same opportunity. Company commanders function under a great deal of pressure. The expectations of their battalion and brigade commanders, as well as those from his own Soldiers and NCOs, is a burden without parallel in the civilian world. Most of our company commanders are about 30 years old.
During our deployment, all but two of the eight companies in our battalion (or attached to our battalion) have experienced a "Change of Command". After his time in command, the outgoing company commander steps aside and a new, bright-eyed captain steps into his big shoes. One of the more transparent but critical aspects to this change of command process is the stability the company experiences from the leadership of the company's senior Non-Commissioned officer: the First Sergeant. It is his responsibility to plan, rehearse, and execute the Change of Command Ceremony. The ceremony is rich in tradition. In our battalion we sing our Division Song, "The Dog-Faced Soldier" and the "Army Song". The company guidon is a small flag that identifies the company and serves as a symbol of the commander's authority and responsibility. The outgoing commander passes it to the battalion commander, who passes it to the incoming commander, who then returns it to the First Sergeant. The ceremony gives the outgoing commander and his battalion commander an opportunity to speak to the company's Soldiers in formation. In addition to senior, military leaders our special guests sometimes include local leaders such as the tribal sheikhs pictured here.