C of C / Retirement

C of C / Retirement

The information contained herein is quoted from Social Usage and Protocol Handbook: A Guide for Personnel of the U.S. Navy (OPNAVINST 1710.7 dated 17 JUL 1979)

Change of Command. Tradition ceremony surrounds the important military occasion of change of command whether of a ship or shore activity. The following recommendations regarding invitation format and the sequence of events are offered to supplement both the existing Navy regulations on the subject and the individual desires of the principal participants. Annex E is provided for additional reference.


Invitations are normally headed by a replica of the personal flag of the officer being relieved or a commission pennant.

An appropriate format is:

The Commander in Chief Atlantic
United States Atlantic Fleet
requests the pleasure of your company at the 1
Change of Command Ceremony at which
Admiral Robert Louis Stevenson, United States Navy
will be relieved by
Admiral John Paul Smith, United States Navy
on Friday, the twenty-second of June
at ten o’clock on board USS AMERICA (CVA-66)
pier Twelve, United States Naval Station
Norfolk, Virginia
Uniform: Service Dress White

1 While it. is equally correct to use the engraved invitation that requires the writing of the guests’ names, it is no more correct than the fully engraved invitation which “requests the pleasure of your company ,“ and it creates needless work in the preparation.

An invitation to a reception following the ceremony if included is on a smaller card that is enclosed with the basic invitation. It may appear as:

immediately following the ceremony
Officers’ Club, United States Naval Station
Washington Navy Yard
Card Enclosed

Sample enclosure card:

Names ______________________
_____ accept
_____ will be unable to accept
the invitation of
the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic and United States Atlantic Fleet
to attend the reception following
the Change of Cornrnand Ceremony

** Mailing. Invitations to Change of Command and Retirement Ceremonies are considered to be “official business” and may therefore be mailed using the Navy Department “Postage and Fees Paid” indicia. Social functions held in conjunction with these ceremonies such as receptions, are not considered to be official business and therefore may not be mailed under the indicia. Inclusion of social invitations to “official business” activities renders the latter ineligible for indicia mailing.

In view of this regulation, the commarid which desires to host a reception following a ceremony should elect an alternate means of inviting guests to the former. The following suggestions are provided:
(1) Mail invitations to the ceremony, including an invitation to the reception with R.S.V.P. card and pay for the postage.
(2) Mail invitations to the Ceremony only, requesting R.S.V.P.s and announce at the ceremony that a reception will follow to which all guests are invited.


A sample program for a change of command ceremony, with annotations, is as follows:

Arrival honor
National Anthem
RemarksGuest Speaker
Remarks and reading of ordersOfficer being relieved
Full honors to officer relieved
Oath of office if required
Reading of orders, remarks, and assumption of commandOfficer relieving
Full honors to officer relieving


Seating for the official party should be in keeping with official precedence. Using the departing Commanding Officer as the host figure for the occasion, follow the customary alternating pattern of senior man to host’s right, second senior to his left, etc. This generally has the additional advantage of situating the principal participants relatively near the lectern.


The receiving line at the reception which follows such an occasion is normally comprised of the aide, outgoing officer as host, wife of host, incoming officer, wife, and an additional officer. The latter who is added to prevent a lady’s ending the line may well be the executive officer, public affairs officer, or other officer as determined by the host. If it is deemed desirable to include the principal guest and his wife in the line, they would stand guest and wife following the wife of the host and before the incoming officer.


Retirement ceremonies, because of their similarity to change of command ceremonies (and often concurrent) should be organized in much the same way as a change of command ceremony. One possible difference is that there is only one central figure and he is the one retiring. The officer retiring should play a major role in the planning of his retirement ceremony.

Where possible, the guidelines of Change of Command Ceremonies should be followed.

* Commander, Naval Intelligence Command
requests the pleasure of your company
at the Retirement Ceremony of
Rear Admiral Thomas Ray, United States Navy
on Friday, the eighteenth of March
at ten o’clock
Admiral Leutze Park,
Washington Navy Yard
Service Dress Blue

* This would be the host figure for the event.

Combined Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony Invitation. In some instances, change of command and retirement ceremonies are combined. A properly worded invitation would be:

Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command
requests the pleasure of your company
at the Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony
at which
Rear Admiral John Smith, Supply Corps, United States Navy
will be relieved by
Rear Admiral Henry Jones, Supply Corps, United States Navy
on Friday, the thirteenth of April
at half past eleven o’clock
Admiral Leutze Park,
Washington Navy Yard
Oxford 51234
Service Dress Blue