The photo on the left shows passing of the colors from Col. John R. Ligon, Commander, Army Reserve Careers Division and the Ltc. Keck, with it battalion Sgt. Major William H. Pope Jr. and outgoing commander Ltc. Williams.
Rooted in military tradition and filled with symbolism the change of command ceremony dates back to the 18th century.
Soldiers carried staffs or standards into battle with color arrangements and unique symbols to identify them as a unit and to show their heritage and history. Unit colors showed the unity and loyalty of its soldiers and are commander’s symbol of authority, representing his responsibilities to the organization
Where the commander is, there also are the colors. When a change of command takes place, the colors are passed to the individual assuming the command. The passing of the unit colors represents the transfer of authority and responsibility for the unit from one commander to another with the act accomplished in front of the unit so that all could see and witness their new leader assuming their dutiful position. He who hold the flag also hold the Soldier’s allegiance.
During the ceremony, the command sergeant major is the keeper of the colors. As the senior enlisted Soldier in the unit, he is the representative for both the loyalty and concerns of the Soldiers and the principle advisor to the commander. The command sergeant major passes the colors to the outgoing commander signifying his last act of allegiance to that commander.
Next, the outgoing commander passes the colors to the senior tactical commander signifying that the unit is never without officer leadership.
The senior tactical commander passes the colors to the incoming commander signifying the passing of his trust, and the responsibility for the unit and its Soldiers.
Finally the colors are passed from the incoming commander to the command sergeant major signifies the confidence that the commander places in the noncommissioned officer corps and is the command sergeant major’s first act of allegiance to the new commander.
This symbolic tradition has survived throughout military history.