Monday, July 19, 2010

The Change of Command... In Two Parts, This Being Part Two

That's the USS Little Rock in the photo above, parked in her berth at Buffalo Naval Park.  The Little Rock was where the change of command ceremony was held and I couldn't think of a more appropriate place.  The ship looks EXACTLY as it did when the ceremonies were held last Friday... and I'm referring specifically to the large white awning on the fantail, under which the ceremonies were held.  I'm quite sure the assembled ship's company of Naval Recruiting District Pittsburgh... who were standing at parade rest throughout the ceremony... appreciated that awning; I know the seated guests certainly did.  Because it was HOT, Gentle Reader.

I've mentioned elsewhere in these pages the Navy "does" tradition better than the other services and Friday's change of command was a fair representation of that tradition.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Navy rituals, officers at the rank of Commander (Lieutenant Colonel) and above are "bonged" on to a ship, any ship -- with the exception of carriers, where only Captains and above are bonged on coz there are just too many Commanders.  The master at arms makes an announcement on the ship's PA to the effect of "Commander, United States Navy, arriving!" and a crew member strikes the ship's bell twice.  Officers holding command are announced by the name of their command, e.g., Commander Shoemaker was bonged aboard with "Navy Recruiting District Pittsburgh, arriving!"  So with that background... here are some of the ceremony's dignitaries... arriving.

416th Engineer Command, Arriving (Paul Crandall, Major General, USA )

Navy Recruiting Region East, Arriving (CAPT Tim Pangonas)

Commander, United States Navy, Arriving (SN2, who arrived as a Commander and left as "Navy Recruiting District, Pittsburgh") 

Here's SN1, The First Mrs. Pennington, and grandson Sean just before they officially arrived.  SN1, who is a major and thus not eligible to be bonged aboard, was mistaken for a Lt Col and bonged aboard as "Colonel, United States Air Force, Arriving" in one of the few administrative cock-ups of the day.

A shot of the color guard assembling before the ceremony. 

A shot of people mentioned in yesterday's post, but in uniform this time.  Left to right... SN1, MG Crandall, CDR Mike Meyer, CDR Corry Judeman.

The arrival area on Little Rock.  Those of you who chased the link to Little Rock know the color guard is posted in front of a Talos missile battery.

Some of the ship's company (personnel from NRD-P) assembling just before the ceremony kicked off.

The change of command ceremony itself was the usual, customary, and reasonable affair for those who have attended such things before.  We had the presentation and posting of the colors, the singing of the national anthem (which was a beautiful a capella rendition by an NRD-P Chief Petty Officer), invocations coming and going, lots of speechifying by all concerned, the official reading of orders, presentation of the Meritorious Service Medal to CDR Shoemaker (the outgoing CO), and ceremonial gift giving to the departing CO.  

Here are a couple of shots from the ceremony...

Your classic "grip'n'grin:"  SN2 presenting CDR Shoemaker with a commemorative plaque.

CDR Pennington addressing the troops.  SN2 set the standard for conciseness and brevity in his remarks.  There's not one single doubt in my military mind the troops were most pleased.

The whole affair took about 45 minutes and left me feeling slightly... but only slightly... bad for the guys who had to stand at parade rest through the whole thing.  I have a few of those tee shirts and the guys standing in formation are VERY glad when it's all over.

So there ya have it... "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," by lil Bucky Pennington, AKA "Buck Pennington, MSgt, USAF (Ret)."  And we must add... once again... that we are MOST proud.

Photo credit:  All "arriving" pics and the group shot of SN1, MG Crandall, and CDRs Meyer and Judeman by DIL Alisa.  The rest were shot by the usual suspect.


  1. Congratulations...I'm sure you're proud!

    The "color guard" photo reminded me of my days pulling that duty in the AF.

  2. Great stuff.

    Apropos of nothing: My word verification is "sonsin".

  3. Ugghh. Always hated Change of Commands and retirements. But they used to have a bbq and keggers afterwards, so that everyone would have a great time.

    Congrat's to you and your wonderful family!

  4. This was all great stuff, Buck. I enjoyed the photos and the behind-the-scenes, and your pride in the whole affair is clearly evident. Congratulations to all!

  5. Great photos. That Capt. Tim Pangonas is tall or that is one weird photo. I think the color guard photo could make a nice painting.

  6. Great stuff Buck, as usual. And congratulations for both you and your Son. It is nice the former USS Little Rock was the venue, the old cruiser continues service even though she is no longer on Active Duty.

    On another matter, Officers of Merit are not "Bonged" aboard, they are actually "Piped" aboard. I am sure you heard not just the ships bell being rung but the Bosn on his whistle also (the "Pipe"). They get piped off too when they leave.

    FWIW, I hated Change of Commands too, all of the ones I participated in were down in Jacksonville FL and they always seemed to be the hottest and most humid day of the year. A most miserable function for the Enlisted, I among them.

    Great trip for ya, it's too bad your travels were not more to the Eastern side of PA, we could share a beer or two!!

    Be safe.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  7. Commanding Officer of a Recruiting District is challenging and rewarding. I am sure he will enjoy the tour!

    Great pictures, BTW.

  8. Outstanding Buck. Congratulations.
    The uniform was a great investment.

  9. Awesome photos and narrative Buck. Looks like it really was a special day for all concerned - perhaps most especially for you considering you had both of your eldest sons with you for several days.

    And I'm with Lou - Capt. Pangonas just looks like a gigantor of a man!

  10. Thank you all for your kind words, yet again.

    Darryl and Jimmy: I've stood in ranks for affairs like these like both you... and done parades down in Biloxi and other hot hell-holes. I know EXACTLY what you're on about. And there was no bosun's pipe at Friday's event, Jimmy... just the ship's bell.

    Lou and Kris: CAPT Pangonas IS a big guy. There's a pic of him standing in between Shoe and Sam at the party Thursday night immediately below.

  11. I got to stand off to the side at ease during the CoC we had up here recently (rank has its privileges)...although I worked my ass off the 2 months prior to get the damn thing planned and organized, so I guess it's a fair trade.

    I bet SN1 was happy to be promoted for the day...reminds me of the old joke, AF O-3 calls for billeting at a Navy base..."This is Captain so and so, I'd like a room for the night." Figures he'd be up in the standard VOQ, and is pleasantly surprised when he's given some ridiculously nice DV suite.

    Oh, and normally I don't do the word verification thing, but this was too good to pass up..."schit" I shit you not.

  12. And I am proud to "know" you, if only electronically, and if I've never said it before -- thank you. Thank you for your service, sir.

  13. ...reminds me of the old joke, AF O-3 calls for billeting at a Navy base..."This is Captain so and so, I'd like a room for the night."

    Buck used to call Sam at work back when he was a captain and announce to whoever answered the phone "This is Captain Pennington and I'm calling for my lil brother CDR Pennington" or words to that effect. Sam had to tell him to "quit DOING that... you're making my people jump through hoops to find me!"

    Phil: Thanks for the kind words, sir!

  14. Man! What a perfect day! I do love the Navy tradition. One of my favorites is the piping ashore of the Navy Family at the conclusion of a retirement ceremony.

    Wasn't it nice to have reserved saeting under the canopy instead of standing with the crew?

    Just think -- I was in the geographical Little Rock while you were aboard the seagoing one! Congrats again to one and all!

  15. Wasn't it nice to have reserved seating under the canopy instead of standing with the crew?

    In MANY more ways than one, Moogie. You have NO ideer... And thanks for your kind words!


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