BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Change of Command ceremonies will look different this year due to the current climate caused by COVID-19.
To adhere with Centers of Disease Control social distancing guidelines, changes to reduce physical attendance during ceremonies were put in place, such as limited seating and the addition of virtual attendance.
“In order to be in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, we quickly shifted our strategy for conducting a ceremony,” said Staff Sgt. Courtney Lee, 9th Reconnaissance Wing protocol specialist. “Instead of meeting in person to plan and execute a ceremony with a large physical audience, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing Protocol office utilized virtual means to conduct all future meetings and ceremonies.”
Lee has witnessed many advantages in Change of Command ceremonies that have been held virtually.
“While Physical attendance was limited during the ceremony, we were successful in broadcasting the ceremony to a much larger audience virtually,” Lee said. “Family and friends from all over the world tuned in and each ceremony was unique in its own way.”
Hundreds of Change of Command ceremonies take place throughout the Air Force every year. The ceremony is a symbolic military tradition that dates back to the 18th century.
“The Change of Command Ceremony is deeply rooted in our military heritage,” Lee said. “The primary purpose is to allow the unit to witness the transfer of responsibility from one officer to another.”
For each Change of Command ceremony, a highly reliable and motivated Project Officer is selected by the outgoing commander to oversee planning their ceremony.
“The Project Officer is charged with assembling a team to assist with the many details that go into planning a Change of Command,” Lee said. “Maintaining clear communication with their Commander and Wing Protocol is what truly makes a ceremony successful.”
Wing Protocol is a valuable asset to Project Officers tasked with coordinating a Change of Command ceremony. They provide Project Officers with details and resources on how to execute a Change of Command ceremony.
“The Protocol office supports the protocol needs of the installation commander and is responsible for customs and courtesies during the Change of Command,” Lee said. “We determine precedence, seating arrangements, authorized gifts, appropriate use of funding sources, flag protocol and overall oversight of the Ceremony. For each Change of Command ceremony, Protocol plays a key role in reviewing scripts, invitations and many other significant pieces involved.”
Holding Change of Command ceremonies virtually has provided Airmen and their families the opportunity to witness a decades old military tradition.
“We learn something new and implement something better with every virtual ceremony,” said Lee. “Each unit made sure their Airmen were able to witness this significant event and their Project Officers stopped at nothing to get the mission done! We truly are blessed with a solid team and the Wing Protocol Office is excited to work with many more units!”