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    Naval Medical Forces Atlantic conducts its first-ever virtual change of command



    Story by Tia McMillen 

    Naval Medical Forces Atlantic

    BEAUFORT, S.C.— Naval Medical Forces Atlantic (NMFL) conducted its first-ever virtual change of command and retirement ceremony May 29, in order to preserve a time-honored Navy tradition while observing social distancing and health and safety protocols in the time of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID 19).

    Naval Hospital Beaufort, one of 21 commands under NMFL, held a change of command ceremony where Capt. Rob Jackson was relieved by Capt. Raymond Batz as commander, Naval Hospital Beaufort. Jackson celebrated 34 years of honorable service to the United States Navy.

    The event was presided over by Rear Adm. Anne M. Swap, commander, NMFL, senior market manager, Tidewater Multi-Service Market, and by Rear Adm. Gary Mayes, commander, Navy Region Southeast.

    The traditional change of command ceremony offers family members, colleagues, leadership, and fellow armed forces personnel the ability to witness the historical customs of the military as the baton of command is passed from one leader to another. The ceremony signifies a new leader for the organization, and a constant progression of military command. In the unprecedented times of COVID 19, virtual changes of command provide an alternative in an environment of budget constraints and extenuating circumstances.

    “The most important piece of the change of command is for the incoming commanding officer to state to a senior witness, ‘I relieve you,’ and for the current commanding officer to stand relieved,” said Swap. “Over history, this exchange of command has been done on a ship, in austere environments, and in places where the public cannot witness it. While it’s tradition to have a large audience, sometimes your mission and environment dictate otherwise,” said Swap.

    Fortunately, social distancing restrictions did not prevent family and friends celebrating the official change of command ceremony. The virtual ceremony protected the health and wellbeing of each attendee, while honoring a lifetime of honorable service.

    “My team planned the official ceremony for months leading up to the official event,” said Jackson. However, things quickly changed when the command had to take social distancing into account.

    “My team came together and suggested that each commander conduct the change of command masked and in person standing six feet apart. We had less than 10 people in the large room. Our presiding officer, Rear Adm. Swap, video teleconferenced in and was able to effectively communicate the importance of the ceremony all the way from Portsmouth, Virginia,” he said.

    The staff considered myriad options for conducting the ceremony, but ultimately decided to collect self-recorded videos from the chaplain and guest speaker, and use video teleconferencing for distinguished visitors.

    Trey Savitz, Naval Hospital Beaufort’s public affairs officer, said that, while challenging, it was imperative to celebrate both Capt. Jackson’s honorable service, and Capt. Batz’s new beginning.

    “I knew I couldn’t let him retire without anything. That’s not how the Navy works. But I also knew we had to ensure safety and security for everyone attending. That’s how we decided to use video and photography to capture both the change of command and retirement ceremony, and edit the products into one video,” said Savitz.

    “I’m so thankful for the video my team put together,” said Jackson. “It’s a memento I can send to my friends and family, and I know my children will get a laugh when we watch it again in a few years.”

    “While once thought impossible, virtual changes of command are now possible and successful,” said Swap. “All commanding officers want their immediate superior in command (ISIC) standing beside them on the big day, but the pandemic made that impossible. A virtual change of command gave us the next best thing.”

    Naval Medical Forces Atlantic, headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, provides well-trained medical experts, operating as high performance teams, to project medical power in support of naval superiority. Led by Rear Adm. Anne M. Swap, the command ensures the warfighter is medically ready; makes certain medical forces are manned, trained, and equipped to meet the operational mission; and increases the survivability of those who go in harm’s way.



    Date Taken: 06.10.2020
    Date Posted: 06.10.2020 16:54
    Story ID: 371855
    Location: BEAUFORT, SC, US 

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