July 29, 2009

183rd RTI holds first change of responsibility ceremony

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Noncommisioned officers of the Virginia Army National Guard’s 183rd Regional Training Institute, accompanied by the commander and the unit’s officers, held their very first change of responsibility ceremony outside the RTI headquarters building at  Fort Pickett July 26 in recognition of the “Year of the NCO.”


Command Sgt. Maj. Howard Halfacre attaches first sergeant insignia to Master Sgt. Brian Coleman during the "charge order" portion of a change of responsibility ceremony at Fort Pickett July 26. (Photo courtesy of 183rd RTI)

The COR was held to welcome Master Sgt. Brian Coleman as the first sergeant of the headquarters and headquarters detachment of the 183rd RTI, and to pay tribute to the outgoing first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Robert Cheely.

In many ways a COR ceremony is very similar to a change of command ceremony, which is held to welcome incoming commanders of a unit and to transfer authority from the previous commander. A key difference between the two ceremonies is the “order of relief” and the “charge order,” according to Command Sgt. Maj. Howard Halfacre, 183rd RTI command sergeant major.

During the “order of relief” the first sergeant insignia is removed from the outgoing first sergeant, relieving them of their responsibility. The “charge order” is then given to the incoming NCO signifying their order to assume responsibility of the unit.

“It was appropriate to remove the first sergeant stripes from the outgoing and put his master sergeant stripes in their place at the relief order and put the first sergeant stripes on the master sergeant as the new first sergeant,” said Halfacre.

The purpose of the COR is to symbolize the importance upon which a command places the position of the senior NCO in the unit.  The ceremony could be conducted for a command sergeant major, first sergeant or the detachment sergeant, according to Halfacre.


Command Sgt. Maj. Howard Halfacre removes the first sergeant insignia from 1st Sgt. Robert Cheely before affixing it to the uniform of Master Sgt. Brian Coleman during a change of responsibility ceremony at Fort Pickett July 26. (Photo courtesy of 183rd RTI)

While the change of command is symbolized by the passing of the colors from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander, the change of responsibility is represented through the passing of the NCO sword from the outgoing NCO to the incoming NCO.

“As the outgoing first sergeant passes the sword to the command sergeant major, he is signifying the relinquishing of his duties and gratitude for the opportunity to care for the Soldiers of the command,” said Halfacre.  “The command sergeant major passes the sword to the incoming first sergeant delegating authority and entrusting him with the responsibility and care of the Soldiers of the command.”

“It has been a privilege to serve as first sergeant for the 183d Regiment,” said Cheely “This unit has, without a doubt, the best NCOs in the Virginia National Guard and among the best in the Army as a whole.”

Cheely will continue his service to the Virginia Army National Guard and to the 183rd by assuming the duties of the regiment’s full-time operations sergeant.


Command Sgt. Maj. Howard Halfacre passes the NCO sword to Master Sgt. Brian Coleman during the change of responsibility ceremony July 26. (Photo courtesy of 183rd RTI)

Also, Cheely is currently enrolled in class number 36 of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy.

"I am greatly honored to have been selected to this position," said Coleman. "Having worked at RTI for the last two years as an instructor for the MP (Military Police) reclassification course I have seen first hand the amount of knowledge, experience, and dedication of the Soldiers to which I will be working with."  

"My job is basic in nature; train the force, lead the force, take care of the force, a job that I do not take lightly and one that I'm priviliged to have."

In 1840 the War Department adopted the unique noncommissioned officers sword.  It was a completely functional weapon, not intended for display, but rather for hard and dedicated use. While the sword is no longer part of the Army’s arsenal, American sergeants wore it in battle for over seventy years, during the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. Sergeants today wear the sword during ceremonies and parades.

The ceremony echoed the message the Army is emphasizing to the Soldiers this year. The Army has declared 2009 “The Year of the NCO,” focusing on the hard work and dedication displayed by the enlisted leadership that defines the Soldier of the U.S. Army.

“For more than 200 years the U.S. Army's NCO Corps has distinguished itself as the world’s most accomplished group of military professionals,” said Halfacre. “The NCO Corps is exemplified by courage, dedication and a willingness to do whatever it takes for mission accomplishment.” 

“Senior NCOs in a command are the ‘Rock’ of the unit and provide continuity in the unit as commanders come and go,” according to Halfacre. “With 2009 declared the 'Year of the NCO,' this ‘Change of Responsibility’ ceremony enhances the awareness and understanding of the role of the NCO and celebrates the backbone of the American Army, the Corps of Non-Commissioned Officers.”

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