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A change of command ceremony, in which the commander of the former 4th Otago-Southland Battalion Group, Lieutenant-colonel Roger McElwain, handed command to Lt-col Grant McMillan, took place in Dunedin yesterday after a parade along George St signalled the joining of the southern battalion with the 2nd Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast Battalion Group into the 2/4 Battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
The battalions were officially merged in December.
The parade was also an exercise of the sub-unit's right of freedom of the city and the unit was inspected by the Mayor of Dunedin Dave Cull before the handover of command.
A Darfield resident, Lt-col McMillan, who has served with the Reserve Force for more than 30 years and is also the principal of Ashburton College, said it was ''a huge and awesome privilege'' to be the commanding officer of the new unit, which brought together about 450 part-time soldiers from the two battalions into one unit with two headquarters, one at Burnham and one in Dunedin.
Battalion amalgamations have taken place throughout New Zealand as part of changes outlined in the Defence White Paper of 2010, which aimed to save the defence force up to $400 million.
''My job is to take the best of both units, while maintaining all the old traditions of the local battalions,''Lt-col McMillan said.
He likened it to a corporate merger, and believed that would also be how civilians would view it''We've still got Regular Force staff, Reserve Force staff and good people in key appointments in each area. Nothing will change in terms of the day-to-day, and the local services.''