A change of command speech or change of responsibility speech have the same basic structure whether it is for Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard. Whether it is a ceremony for a company, brigade or battalion, wing or installation-level, the only change is the formality. The higher-up the change and the larger the ceremony, the more formal your remarks should be. There are a few basic rules to follow and the rest is just adding something of yourself or something pesonal to your unit.
The Outgoing commander gets to talk longer because the unit has been under his or her perview for the last years. If it is an outdoor ceremony with a formation, keep your remarks brief - 5-7 minutes tops. If it is an indoor ceremony or the weather is pleasant (stand in the sun for 5 minutes and test this for yourself), you can go from 6-9 minutes.
Whenever you speak, someone is going to introduce you, and that may include brief remarks on who you are. If you have certain accomplishments you want highlighted or certain things you DON'T want highlighted, find out who is introducing you and tell them (or their aide if it is a superior commander), what you'd like said. Give them about two weeks notice. Have a copy of your bio and official photo ready to send to them for more.
The outgoing commander usually speaks first, or they speak right after the key note speaker, typically the highest commander present or that commander's new boss.
1. Greeting and Amenities:
Thank the person who introduced you, and recognize anyone else appropriate (Ie: the band, the color guard, the service members in formation). Greet the audience and name any specific VIPs by name. This varies by level, but typically would include the highest 2 commander's present and their spouses, plus any political or civic leaders from the community. When in doubt, ask your protocol office for help identifying who should be recognized. (30 seconds - 1 minute)
2. Your time in command
Talk about how much you've enjoyed your time in this position. Mention any special accomplishments you're proud of or any large changes or challenges that defined your time there. You can tell interesting or funny anecdotes about your time there, but make sure anything you tell is respectful and doesn't embarrass anyone. (1-2 minutes)
Gratitude and recognition
Thank your mentors and your commanders for their support. Thank your colleagues and recognize anyone special for what they've done. Thank your subordinate troops for their hard work. Most importantly, thank your spouse and family. This can also be a time to tell anecdotes about special people in your career - a former drill sergeant, a specific mentor, something your parents taught you - and explain how what they taught you enabled you to do your job better.(1-2 minutes)
Will miss job
Whether it's true or not, say how much you loved working there and how great your team was and how much you will miss working with them every day.(1-2 minutes)
Praise new commander
Say how great the new commander is going to be. If you know him or her personally, you can share a brief anecdote about them or say how long you've known them. If you don't know him or her, you can say you've heard great things about them and you're confident they will do a great job. (30 seconds- 1 minute)
Finish up with an inspirational thought or quote. This can be something about your leadership philosophy, something about the endurance of the military. Or you can also say something about the unit - the motto or nicknames work well - and wrap that into a closing. "I know the Rock of the Marne will stand solid" or "Don't forget, Sabers will always stay sharp" or "Watch out for the bulldogs! Their bark is as nothing compared to their bite!". Its always fine to end the speech with the base or branch motto (Follow Me!) or (First to Fight!) or with a simple thank you. (30 seconds - 2 minutes)
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