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Passing The Flag Through Generations
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney - September 9, 2016

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American Pride: Poems Honoring America and Her Patriots! by David G. Bancroft

“I relinquish command.”

“I assume command.”

Across the globe, these words are spoken to signify one of the biggest changes a military unit can experience: new leadership.

U.S. Air Force Col. Craig Baker, outgoing commander of the 180th Fighter Wing, passes the unit flag to Maj. Gen. Mark Bartman during Baker’s change of command ceremony in Swanton, Ohio on Aug. 7, 2016. Baker has been appointed to a position in the Pentagon serving as the Director, Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s Strategic Studies Group. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer)
U.S. Air Force Col. Craig Baker, outgoing commander of the 180th Fighter Wing, passes the unit flag to Maj. Gen. Mark Bartman during Baker's change of command ceremony in Swanton, Ohio on Aug. 7, 2016. Baker has been appointed to a position in the Pentagon serving as the Director, Chief of Staff of the Air Force's Strategic Studies Group. (Ohio Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer)

A change of command is a formal transfer of authority and responsibility from one commander to another in the presence of those both above and below the command – not only the Airmen in the unit, but the senior leadership of the unit is also present as the officiating party.

The passing of the flag ceremony shows that military members are never without leadership. During the ceremony, the guidon is passed between the unit's first sergeant, the old and new commanders, and the officiating party, signifying the transfer of responsibilities and the entrustment of a unit into the new commander's hands.

“The passing of the flag signifies that the military members are never without a commander, not even for a second,” said Christopher Koonce, 20th Fighter Wing historian. “That is why the guidon or organizational flag is never let go during that part of the ceremony.”

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, passes the Air Force Reserve Command flag to Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller during her change of command ceremony at the Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins, Ga., July 15, 2016. With the flag exchange, Miller became the first women to lead AFRC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Stephen D. Schester)
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, passes the Air Force Reserve Command flag to Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller during her change of command ceremony at the Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins, Ga., July 15, 2016. With the flag exchange, Miller became the first women to lead AFRC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Stephen D. Schester)

According to Koonce, the ceremony dates back centuries to the Roman Empire. Today, the change of command ceremony continues to provide personnel in a unit the opportunity to recognize and honor the achievements of the past and the face of the future.

“Our military, our Air Force is built on discipline and traditions,” said Jackie Wren, 20th Fighter Wing chief of protocol. “Acknowledging the history and continuing the legacy is a big deal. Change of command ceremonies are an opportunity for soldiers to stand up tall and show pride in their unit.”

Maj. Gen. Frederick Martin, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander, passes the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing flag to Col. Thomas Cooper during a change-of-command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, June 14, 2016. With the passing of the flag, Cooper took command of more than 2,000 Airmen throughout Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales)
Maj. Gen. Frederick Martin, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander, passes the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing flag to Col. Thomas Cooper during a change-of-command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, June 14, 2016. With the passing of the flag, Cooper took command of more than 2,000 Airmen throughout Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

Signifying the beginning of a new era and the end of an old, change of commands are a longstanding part of Air Force and military tradition. Passing the flag through the generations has allowed and will continue to allow military generations to connect with their predecessors and their successors through a tradition of honor.

By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2016

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