A time-honored tradition

With summer in full swing, Coast Guard cutters, sectors, air stations and support units are not only seeing new weather, but new faces. During the summer months, what is often known as transfer season, members across the service take on new roles and assignments. For many officers and senior enlisted their new units will mark the first time they will have the opportunity to command a Coast Guard unit. That responsibility begins with their participation in the time-honored tradition of the change of command.

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Vice Adm. Robert C. Parker, Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area, salutes during the national anthem along with Cmdr. Dave W. Ramassini, the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bear, and Cmdr. William J. Lane, the Bear's departing commanding officer, during a change of command ceremony here, July 6, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Christopher Bodner.
Vice Adm. Robert C. Parker, Atlantic Area commander, salutes during the national anthem along with Cmdr. Dave W. Ramassini, the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bear, and Cmdr. William J. Lane, Bear’s departing commanding officer. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Christopher Bodner.

Written by Ademide Adedokun

With summer in full swing, Coast Guard cutters, sectors, air stations and support units are not only seeing new weather, but new faces.  During the summer months, what is often known as transfer season, members across the service take on new roles and assignments.  For many officers and senior enlisted their new units will mark the first time they will have the opportunity to command a Coast Guard unit. That responsibility begins with their participation in the time-honored tradition of the change of command.

 As a maritime service, charged with protecting and defending our nation’s coasts, the Coast Guard observes many naval traditions. One of the most significant to crews at units across the country is a change of command.

A Coast Guard honor guard marches toward the stage during the change of command ceremony for the Cutter Bear. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Christopher Bodner.
A Coast Guard honor guard marches toward the stage during the change of command ceremony for the Cutter Bear. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Christopher Bodner.

“The change of watch ceremony preserves our rich military heritage — a heritage we are remarkably proud of as we complete 222 years of service to America,” said Vice Adm. Robert Parker, Atlantic Area commander, at yesterday’s change of command for Coast Guard Cutter Eagle.

“The Eagle carries the namesake of one of our most historic revenue cutters making this ceremony particularly special as we commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812.  It’s a reminder of both the time honored tradition of passing full authority from one officer to another, along with the important role that Coast Guard cutters have played in American history for more than 200 years,” added Parker.

At the heart of a change of command ceremony is the reading of orders in the presence of the crew. The message is simple, but the inherent authority of the Commanding Officer is passed with the statements “I relieve you…I stand relieved.”

With those words and salutes exchanged in the presence of the crew, all who are present recognize the primary decision maker for the unit has changed.

These words were spoken by Cmdr. William Lane outgoing commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Bear, as Cmdr. Dave Ramassini took command. The crew of 100 attended the ceremony of the cutter, rich in heritage; the original Revenue Cutter Bear dates back to 1874 and in 1885 performed one of the greatest ice rescues in the history of our nation. 

After his change of command, Ramassini reflected on the ceremony and the long history of Bear.

 “With that salute it is not lost on me that I become one in a long line of more than forty officers who have had the great fortune of commanding Bear,” said Ramassini. “I’m proud to have assumed command of the Coast Guard’s most famous cutter.”

In his address to cadets at the Coast Guard Academy this year, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp stressed the importance of learning the service’s history. “To understand where this line is going, you need to have an appreciation for where it’s been.” 

The change of command ceremony offers the opportunity for members of the Coast Guard to acknowledge and recognize our rich maritime history and traditions that have sustained the service through almost 222 years. 

Capt. Raymond 'Wes' Pulver (right) salutes Capt. Eric C. Jones to assume command of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle during a change of command ceremony held aboard the Eagle in New London. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Erik Swanson.
Capt. Raymond ‘Wes’ Pulver (right) salutes Capt. Eric C. Jones to assume command of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle during a change of command ceremony held aboard the Eagle in New London. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Erik Swanson.

And as Coast Guard men and women recognize the service’s traditions, they are inspired by the possibilities of what’s to come.

“It’s amazing to think that myself or one of my fellow cadets could command the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle one day,” said Coast Guard Academy Cadet 1st Class Cameron E. King. “I look forward to the challenge of serving as a Coast Guard officer after graduation.”

The change of command ceremony provides a time honored simple ritual, remaining essentially unchanged for centuries of naval history. Signifying the transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability to the assembled crew, the tradition represents the Coast Guard men and women who have stated the words and assumed the command.

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