Change of Command parades aren’t always routine

Jeff Editor

From the Editor’s Desk

Jeff Gaye

Speeches at a Change of Command ceremony can be predictable. When I was with the Royal Canadian Artillery band, it was a running joke that almost every new CO on parade would open his remarks, in badly mangled French, with “Je swee tray fee-air d’etre ici parmy voo aur jou d’hui” (“I am very proud to be here among you today”).

Happily, that line seems to have fallen out of fashion.

Sometimes there were surprises. After one parade rehearsal, an outgoing CO addressed his troops by saying “it was really [expletive deleted] frustrating working with you [expletive deleted] over the past two years. There were times when I wanted to have half of you taken out back and shot, but the RSM wouldn’t let me.”

At the actual parade that afternoon, he was all sweetness and light.

One moment that is universal to every Change of Command speech is where the outgoing and incoming COs thank their families for standing beside them through their careers.

Although these moments are predictable, they are also the times when the speakers are most personal and most sincere. This where many a square-jawed steely-eyed leader gets a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye. And this is good.

Leadership demands empathy, and leading a unit means taking care of your people and their families. When a leader understands the sacrifices their own spouse and children make, when they fully understand the challenges and hardships that go along with military family life, they are able to appreciate the needs and the concerns of their troops.

Spouses and family members do as much to build the community as the members themselves, often more. Every family, regardless of the member’s rank, has its own concerns to deal with, but also plays an important role supporting friends and neighbours. They participate in sports and recreation initiatives for their kids, they get involved in their schools, they volunteer for all kinds of community efforts. And then they are posted somewhere else and start all over again.

Spouses, instead of advancing in their own careers, hope to find suitable employment from place to place. Children lose out on the continuity in their school life and their recreational pursuits, as well as in their friendships.

Their commitment to the country matches that of the serving member.

Rest assured that when an incoming or outgoing CO takes a moment on parade to thank their family, they aren’t just following the formula. They are showing the genuineness and sincerity that are so important to good leadership.