How to Write a Change of Command Speech
How to Write a Change of Command Speech

Going Into Command

  • Keep it short (2-3 minutes)
  • Introduction:  welcome the guests, but don’t run down the entire laundry list of guests. You’ll be the third person to speak, and the guests will feel plenty-welcomed by then.
  • Be sure to thank:
    • The Chain of Command for the opportunity
    • The Outgoing Commander & his/her family
    • Your spouse & family
    • The troops, and express gratitude for the honor of joining their team
    • Write two sentences about the privilege to command and how you’re looking forward to what the future will bring
    • Do not say “All policies and procedures remain in effect.” First, it sounds ridiculous and cliché. Second, there’s no regulation or policy requirement to do so, nor is there any expectation that Army regulations and UCMJ are no longer applicable if you don’t say those seven words at your change of command. And finally, it’s not true. You’re going to change every policy letter when you resign it under your name. And, heaven forbid, you might actually change some things because, well, you’re the commander and you have the authority to do so.

Leaving Command

  • Keep it short(ish) (8-10 minutes)
  • Introduction:  go ahead and thank the key guests for attending. Welcome General Officers and equivalent Sergeants Major by name. Welcome your commander by name. Welcome all others by group, unless an individual stands out in come significant way (Medal of Honor recipient or “Honorary Colonel of the Unit”).
  • Include some mention of why we serve, and of the concepts duty, honor, and sacrifice.
  • Honor fallen/wounded Soldiers, as appropriate.
  • Relive the story of your time in command, but from the Soldiers’ perspective, not yours.
  • Retell some stories using individual names (“The Company’s success during NTC grew out of the individual efforts of men like squad leader SSG Goldman, who single-handedly breached the wire obstacle on the final objective.”)
  • Thank:
    • Your Chain of Command
    • The unit for their sacrifice
    • Your staff and higher headquarters’ staff for putting up with you
    • Adjacent and supporting/attached units as necessary
    • Your key staff members
    • Your senior enlisted leader
    • Your spouse

General Tips

  • Rehearse your speech NO LESS THAN 10 TIMES!!
  • Get feedback from your peers and spouse on content and timing.
  • Don’t ad-lib unless you are a gifted orator or an extrovert who can carry a crowd.
  • Type your speech in big font and wide paragraph spacing, put the pages into sheet protectors, and prepare them in a three-ring binder at the podium.
  • Have a second fully functioning binder in case the Adjutant loses the primary.
  • If you’re cool, consider putting the formation At Ease.
  • Don’t  forget to thank your spouse! There is no chance that you would have been as successful as you were without him/her, so you should probably state that fact publicly.
  • And finally…please don’t cry.