Exploring Seattle – Part 3
Monday, February 25, 2002
Terry and I drove up to Everett Navy base for the Change of Command ceremony for the USS Paul Foster. Chuck had a driver go and pick up the rest of the gang, but we wouldn’t all fit into the one Navy vehicle. Since we had the rental car, we drove separately. We arrived at the first checkpoint, and we were told that our pass was not the correct pass. Additionally, the list of attendees was not available at the checkpoint yet. We were told to wait outside the gate until the information could be verified. The out-going Commander also had some guests who drove to the event and were in the same situation. We probably had to wait about 30 minutes before they finally let us in.
When we got to the ship, we saw all of these flags flying on the ship from bow to stern. Soldiers formed two columns nearly the length of the ship were holding flags. The guests were to walk between the two columns up to the stairs to get on deck, where the ceremony was being held. The crew put up a tent on deck, and they were piping in warm air since it was so cold out. We were escorted to our assigned seats by some of the junior officers. It was as formal as a wedding with the departing Commander’s guests on the left, and the in-coming Commander’s guests on the right.
The Rear Admiral, the Commodore, the out-going Commander, and Chuck all spoke during the ceremony. Chuck now has a sword with his uniform, since he is a Commander at sea. Children from the local elementary school sang several songs. The ceremony was steeped in centuries of tradition, and the pride in their accomplishments was apparent. The roles they all played were rehearsed, but didn’t seem stiff.
After the ceremony, there was a receiving line for Chuck and the out-going Commander. Chuck’s wife was pinned by the Commodore’s wife with a COW pin. This pin is a cow, and it stands for Commanding Officer’s Wife. It was very appropriate, as all of the speakers mentioned what a great part the Captain’s spouse plays in a Navy officer’s life.
The reception was held in the helicopter hangar on the ship. The cake was a masterpiece. The crew had plenty of food, and even made an ice carving of a bird. Chuck had the baker come up, and he thanked him for the cake and told him that it was a work of art. I thought that it was very thoughtful of Chuck to do so right in front of everyone. Again, almost like a wedding, both Chuck and the out-going Commander cut the cake together. At least they didn’t feed it to each other.
To be continued…