Chaplain: 'It's all about endings and new beginnings'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jeffrey L. Neuberger
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing chaplain
The 92nd Air Refueling Wing has experienced a great many leadership transitions since May. The change-of-command ceremony is the formal manner in which the Air Force acknowledges a change in leadership.

The narrator of these ceremonies normally begins with an announcement to silence all pagers and cell phones to prevent unwanted interruptions during the ceremony.

When I think about it, the change of command itself is something of an interruption to our normal rhythm. With a new commander comes a change in personality, perhaps a new way of doing things.

Through form and ceremony, with dignity, we officially recognize a change in command leadership.

Formality is good because it provides form, a way to understand the meaning and purpose of the ceremony. It wouldn't do to gather the troops before the new commander and simply say: "Here is your new commander. Say hello!"

There's a certain point in the ceremony that gets me every time. Following the outgoing commander's comments, he/she then faces the assembled flight and is rendered a final salute. Moments later, after a brief speech, the new commander then receives the first salute as commander.

It all happens in a flash, but the undeniable sense of transition and finality touches me deeply; it's all about endings and new beginnings.

I'm reminded of these words from childhood: "All good things must come to an end." This saying is a way of helping us cope with the undeniable truth that life is nothing but transition. Life is marked by birthdays and anniversaries, promotions and retirements, weddings and funerals.

The change of command is also a community event; assembled guests, members of the unit, and the command structure all gather to help each other recognize and manage another transition. As the ceremony begins we honor our nation with the national anthem, we recognize the spiritual nature of life with a prayer, we honor the military member with a decoration for "singularly distinctive accomplishments," and the transfer of authority is complete with a pronouncement, a salute and the passing of a guidon.

Formality, community, transition: these things make up our shared experience, in life and in the Air Force. No matter the transition, I'm thankful to be traveling with such a fine community!