YOKOSUKA, Japan – Cmdr. Leroy Mitchell relieved Cmdr. Justin Harts as commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) on May 5, 2017.
The change of command ceremony was held on Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY).
Cmdr. Harts served as the commanding officer from November 2015 to May 2017, taking command just after Benfold’s homeport shift from San Diego, Calif. to Yokosuka, Japan.
“To serve as your commanding officer has been a humbling experience,” said Harts. “Seventh Fleet isn’t like San Diego – we have short-notice tasking to meet the mission. You all have worked hard and risen to the occasion, allowing us to make a direct impact to the nation’s security. Thank you all for being my shipmate!”
Throughout Harts’ tour, Benfold excelled as part of destroyer squadron (DESRON) 15 in the Seventh Fleet area of operations, earning all five Maritime Warfare Excellence Awards and the Green H - one of only 10 ships in the Navy to accomplish this feat.
Additionally, he led the ship through several joint exercises including Multi-Sail ’16, carrier operations with the Ronald Reagan strike group, and Exercise Valiant Shield. Benfold participated in several ballistic missile defense missions and pacific presence operations as well.
Under Harts’ leadership, Benfold executed a historic port visit to Qingdao, China in August 2016, making it the first U.S. warship to visit China since the UN arbitration ruling against China’s island-building campaign in the South China Sea. He met with the Commander of the Peoples Liberation Army (Navy) North Sea Fleet in an effort to further US-China relations.
CDR Harts will report next as an Academic Fellow at the University of Oxford.
Cmdr. Mitchell, who served as Deputy Executive Assistant for the Director, Surface Warfare (OPNAV 96) prior to his executive officer tour aboard Benfold is an Orangeburg, SC native.
“I am honored to be returning to such an outstanding crew,” said Mitchell. “We have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice and I know the Benfold team is ready.”