story & photos
by Christopher Annino
The USS New Mexico (SSN 779) was commissioned on March 27, 2010 at the Norfolk Naval Base and is now officially a member of the fleet of the United States Navy. On Friday, October 15, Commander Mark Prokopius turned over command of the Virginia-class attack submarine to Commander George Perez in a ceremony at the Naval Submarine Base New London’s Shepherd of the Sea Chapel.
Cmdr. Prokopius has a very successful career both as a Naval officer and as a civilian. He holds a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters of Engineering Management degree from Old Dominion University. His personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), the Navy Commendation Medal (six awards), and the Navy Achievement Medal (three awards), as well as, various unit awards.
Cmdr. Prokopius also served as a member of the Atlantic Fleet Nuclear Propulsion Examining Board. “We are very proud of him and all of his accomplishments” said Kathy, his wife.
Cmdr. Prokopius added “It will be bitter sweet I will miss taking my crew to sea. I have nothing but positive to say about Commander Perez I wish him the best and I know he will do a tremendous job. The message I would like to leave to my crew is I would like them to continue to progress and move forward through adversity.”
Cmdr. Perez previously served as combat systems officer aboard USS Montpelier (SSN 765) and executive officer aboard USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740). 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 for the Navy Region Southeast.
“I am looking forward to taking command of the USS New Mexico it is a challenge that I am looking forward to. For right now the ship will be in the boat yard for the next few months for maintenance and repairs” said Cmdr. Perez.
During the celebration Cmdr. Prokopius received the meritorious service medal. The award is for, Prokopius advancing the New Mexico and her crew to the leading edge, and for it to be the first Virginia-class submarine to be fully certified in all tactical war fighting areas during Weapons System Acceptance Testing. Rear Admiral Michael McLaughlin was the guest speaker at the event and commented on Prokopius’s tenure as the Commanding officer of the USS New Mexico.