On 14 March 2015, at the Olympia Armory in Columbia, COL Greg Stidom officially relinquished his command of the 1st Brigade to LTC Gary Atkinson, during an official Change of Command Ceremony. The ceremony was officiated by BG Mullikin, the SCSG Commander, and was attended by various officials and dignitaries, as well as both commanders’ spouses and other family members, and the entire 1st Brigade in formation.
After a brief invocation by the chaplain, a bouquet of red roses was presented to the wife of COL Stidom (the outgoing Commander), and a bouquet of yellow roses was presented to the wife of LTC Atkinson (the incoming Commander). The presentation of flowers to both Commanders’ wives was to show our appreciation for their support of their husbands during each Commander’s commitment to his troops. The commitment that a Brigade Commander takes is a great responsibility, and it weighs on the shoulders of the officers who undertake such commands, not to mention the amount of time spent away from their families. Once the troops were assembled at attention, the official party, consisting of the incoming & outgoing commanders, and the SCSG Commander, BG Thomas Mullikin, moved into position. Then the National Anthem was played.
The Change of Command Ceremony has historical significance, but it is also important because it demonstrates the scope of the solemn commitment the new Commander takes in front of all the witnesses. The passing of the flags, or “colors,” has historical importance and is the epitome of this ceremonial gesture. Flags or “standards” have a rich history and symbolism, and they also signify the Commander and his authority. Back in medieval times, soldiers often carried staffs or standards into battle that identified them as a unit. Throughout military history, unit colors have marked the position of the commander on the battlefield and served as a rallying point. While attacking or rallying on the battlefield, soldiers would follow the standard or guidon of their leader, usually found at the forward edge of the battle.