PACIFIC OCEAN - With the South Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, the officers and crew of the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) stood in formation for a change of command ceremony, July 26.
“I extremely honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to serve as commanding officer of such an incredible crew, something I have dreamed of since I was young,” said Cmdr. Velez. “I am inspired and impressed by the perseverance, enthusiasm and expert skill the crew demonstrates on a daily basis – the credit for each success this ship has earned goes to each one of you. This tour has been the pinnacle of my Naval career and I will carry my experiences from the last year with me for the rest of my life.”
Velez’s command tour was cut short a few months as he received orders to serve as Deputy Commodore of Destroyer Squadron Fifteen. However, during his fourteen months in command, Fitzgerald displayed superior performance, remaining fully qualified, certified and mission ready.
Also under Velez’s command, the ship earned the 2010 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Bloodhound Award as well as the 2010 Retention Excellence Award. Fitzgerald excelled in all warfare areas while participating in multiple joint maritime exercises to include ASW operations with South Korea and a recent biennial exercise, Talisman Sabre 2011, with our Australian allies. Additionally, Fitzgerald got underway in four hours following the devastating earthquake that struck the Japanese nation in March 2011, providing support and conducting search and rescue operations less than one mile from land.
A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Class of 1992, Velez earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering, later earning a Masters in Information Technology Management. On his previous five ships he deployed to numerous regions including Western Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Persian Gulf. Ashore, Velez has worked as Officer in Charge of Western Hemisphere Group Caribbean Area Coordinator as well as Deputy Director of Surface Warfare Distribution for the Naval Personnel Command.
“Through Cmdr. Velez’s exceptional leadership, discipline and dedication, Fitzgerald has set the standard across the waterfront,” said Cmdr. Mutty. “I can only hope to be half as good a commanding officer, and if so, Fitzgerald will remain the first ship Seventh Fleet requests for difficult missions.”
Cmdr. Mutty is the eleventh commanding officer of USS Fitzgerald. He completed his undergraduate education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, later attending the Naval Postgraduate School and earning a Master of Arts degree in National Security Affairs. Previous ships include USS Bainbridge (CGN 25), USS Laboon (DDG 58), USS Austin (LPD 4), USS Cole (DDG 67) and USS Ross (DDG 71). Throughout his career he deployed to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, North and South Atlantic and Caribbean. Additional career highlights include serving at OPNAV N86 as Requirements Officer for the Littoral Combat Ship, an Individual Augmentation assignment to support Joint CREW Composite Squadron One in Mosul, Iraq and assignment as the Chief Plans Policy Branch on the Joint Staff, J-7, Operational War Plans Division.
Mutty arrived in Japan in June 2010 to serve as the executive officer and following tour as commanding officer, taking part in the first Executive Officer/Commanding Officer “fleet-up” onboard USS Fitzgerald.
“You have truly impressed me during my time as executive officer,” Mutty addressed the crew. “I cannot thank you enough for your support over the last year and I am honored to have the chance to serve with the best crew in the Navy.”
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer that is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, as part of Destroyer Squadron 15 in the U.S. 7th Fleet.