YOKOSUKA, Japan -- Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) held a change of command ceremony at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Nov. 30.
Cmdr. Justin L. Harts relieved Cmdr. Michele M. Day as the ship’s commanding officer. During the ceremony, Harts spoke about the importance of mentors and teamwork, and the role they will play in the ship’s warfighting efforts during his time as the ship’s commanding officer.
“As many of you sitting in the audience today know, we cannot succeed alone,” said Harts. “I could not be here today without the guidance and support of many people throughout my career. Through mentorship, leadership and teamwork, we will continue to build on the great accomplishments of this ship and her crew. I am proud to take command of what might be the most battle-ready ship in the world, and that is in no small debt to the hard work and dedication of our crew members sitting here today.”
Harts assumes command of Benfold after serving as executive officer aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). He earned a commission from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1998 with a degree in marine transportation and logistics and an unlimited U.S. Coast Guard Third Mate’s license. He also holds a master’s degree in systems engineering and analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School.
Day served as commanding officer of Benfold since March 14, 2014. During her time as commanding officer, Benfold completed an assortment of accomplishments despite the challenges of an 85 percent crew turnover while finishing an 18-month Chief of Naval Operations maintenance availability. In the last year, Benfold completed all combat system ship qualification trials and Tier 1 training events. Day highlighted Benfold’s Board of Inspections and Survey (INSURV) score of 83 percent and the highest supply and habitability score the INSURV assessor had ever awarded, which was one week after completing a Type Commander’s (TYCOM) Material Inspection. Immediately following INSURV, Benfold joined the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in Japan Oct. 16. Shortly after arrival to Japan, Benfold integrated into the Ronald Reagan Strike Group and participated in Annual Exercise 16.
During the ceremony, Day thanked her former crew for their perseverance throughout her tenure as commanding officer.
“There were many times that the deck was stacked against us, but your accomplishments throughout this past year were astounding,” said Day. “You responded to every step of adversity with enthusiastic commitment, and every step along the way, we grew as a team. You have been going 100-miles per hour and I don’t have the words to express my gratitude to each and every one of you.”
Day, who was awarded the Meritorious Service Award during the ceremony, will report to Carrier Strike Group Five this month.
Benfold joined the FDNF in Japan to enhance presence in the 7th Fleet as part of the U.S. Navy's long range plan to send the most advanced and capable units to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, while also adding to the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capable ships in the region.