The silence that recently filled the Hinckley Center conference room was broken by the uniform close of the final salute to Col. Brent Johnson. Each person present felt the profound respect that Detachment 855 had for its departing colonel and commander of three years. The Air Force ROTC unit flag was publicly passed to incoming Col. Paul M. Kucharek as a symbol of the transfer of authority.
The Change in Command Ceremony is performed by all active branches of military. In a press release from the ROTC, it said that dating back to a tradition in the Middle Ages, the unique flag of each unit was passed on to the new commander. It stood as a symbol of loyalty and honor. He who held the flag also held in their hands the fate and future of their soldiers.
In his farewell address on Thursday Aug. 30, Johnson urged his cadets to continually serve the country throughout their lives.
“You do not have to be in a uniform to serve in the defense of this nation,” Johnson said. “If you are in the military, it does not matter what your job is. You are all equally important and share in the service and defense of our nation.”
Johnson also applauded all his cadets on their hard work and obedience during his three years of service.
“You are the epitome of the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do,” Johnson said.
BYU Air Force ROTC Detachment 855 is one of 34 in the north-west region. There are 145 in the nation, of which BYU is ranked number six overall. Det. 855 has the highest average GPA in the nation, has the top fitness scores, gives out the most high-school scholarships and sends 100 percent of its nominees to field training.
Col. Darren Hansen, commander of all ROTC detachments in the north-west region, said that BYU cadets are the brightest, the fittest and the most motivated because of the high standards that each of them holds.
“It has a lot to do with family values that are distilled at a very early age,” Hansen said. “It has a lot do with the understanding of how important work ethic is. It is because of that that our cadets perform so well.”
Hansen said Detachment 855 leadership aims at strengthening the core values that each cadet already has upon joining the ROTC. This prepares them to be officers and to lead future enlisted soldiers.
The commander position in ROTC detachments is an important assignment in the Air Force. Cadet Capt. Andrew Hodges, wing public affairs officer, said Col. Johnson has been a great example of preciseness and punctuality.
“He is just somebody that makes you want to be your best. He brings out the best in all of us,” Hodges said.
Another cadet said he has also been positively effected by Johnson’s leadership.
“From Col. Johnson, I have learned excellence,” Cadet Third Class Jensen said. “He has definitely pushed all of us to reach a degree of excellency that perhaps we didn’t see at first as being necessary, but that I have now come to see as complimentary to any officer, regardless of career path, both physically and mentally.”
A change in command takes place every three or four years. Cadet Capt. Jordan Mitchell explained that the significance of the public transition of authority to a new colonel is so the cadets recognize who is in charge and what the new colonel’s vision is for them.
“In these kinds of organizations in the Air Force, it is the leadership that really defines where we go and how we act,” Mitchell said.
After the traditional passing of the unit flag took place, incoming commander Col. Paul M. Kucharek emphasized to the cadets the importance of the Air Force core values in leadership and service.
“You are about to lead in a dynamic world, and I will tell you that leadership in our air force is an honor and a sacred trust,” Kucharek said. “You have to remember the core values. They are timeless. Weave them into the fabric of everything that you do everyday, in and out of uniform, on and off duty.”
Kucharek promised that he would work tirelessly to prepare his cadets to reach new heights, and to fly, fight and win.