GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- USS New Mexico (SSN 779) held a change of command ceremony Oct. 15 at Naval Submarine Base New London's Shepherd of the Sea Chapel.
Rear Adm. Michael McLaughlin, commander Submarine Group 2, was the guest speaker for the ceremony in which Cmdr. Mark Prokopius turned over command to Cmdr. George Perez.
McLaughlin commented on Prokopius' success during his tenure as New Mexico's commanding officer.
"Mark has handled well the challenge of taking a submarine from new construction to a certified war fighting machine in the United States' arsenal. And in the process, he forged a cohesive fighting team," said McLaughlin.
During his speech, Prokopius, a native of Seven Hills, Ohio who received his commission through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Notre Dame, took the opportunity to thank the people who influenced him during his career as well as those who served with him the last few years.
"A commanding officer's success is entirely dependent on his command team, and I have been extremely fortunate in that area," said Prokopius. "I leave you [the crew and family of New Mexico] with this. A man's character cannot be judged by his successes, but how he deals with adversity. Given what we have been through the past two years ... you responded to every challenge and fought through to the end. I am proud to call each of you shipmates."
Prokopius received the meritorious service medal. According to the award's citation, Prokopius kept New Mexico and her crew on the leading edge, becoming the first Virginia-class submarine to be fully-certified in all tactical war fighting areas during Weapons System Acceptance Testing.
Prokopius will next serve as the deputy for Training at Submarine Squadron Six.
Perez congratulated the crew of New Mexico for overcoming the many challenges faced with commissioning a new ship.
"You have endeavored to build the world's most technologically-advanced submarine from the ground up. But the most difficult challenges and most rewarding accomplishments remain ahead," Said Perez. "As we move through this availability, we will transition New Mexico from the final chapter of new construction to her first as an operational warship of the fleet and the start of a history that will span the next three decades. I look forward to facing the times ahead with each and every one of you."
Perez, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, previously served as combat systems officer aboard USS Montpelier (SSN 765) and executive officer aboard USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) Blue. He also commanded the Provincial Reconstruction Team in eastern Afghanistan's Nuristan Province, where he served with both the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Perez most recently served as the Current operations officer, Navy Region Southeast.
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.