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Cmdr. Justin B. Smith succeeded Cmdr. Stephen M. Valerio, as USS Mason (DDG 87) commanding officer during a Naval Station Mayport, ceremony Sept. 26.
A native of Buffalo, New York and raised in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Valerio assumed command of Mason in April 2021, and will go on to serve as executive assistant for the Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy for Policy. As commanding officer, he led Mason through the COVID-19 pandemic and oversaw maintenance and upgrades resulting in the total overhaul of the engineering plant, and combat systems, and led the ship through the successful execution of a reintroduction to INSURV. Under Valerio’s leadership, Mason received the Destroyer Squadron TWO Battle “E” award and FY-21 Retention Excellence award. Recently, Mason also successfully completed a homeport shift from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport.
“I was truly humbled to have had the opportunity to command such an amazing crew for the last 18 months, said Valerio. “Every day I’m proud to be your Captain. I know that whether it’s with me as your captain, or Cmdr. Smith, this crew will continue to be hard chargers and embody that NO QUARTER mentality that has made Mason so successful.”
“I am equally humbled at the honor to lead the Mason Blue Lion family,” added Smith. “As I accept the honor of being your captain, I understand the great responsibility I have to the crew, their families and our country and am ready to execute so this ship can continue to be one of the leading performers in the waterfront. Proudly we serve!”
The Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer commissioned April 12, 2003, and is the third ship to bear the name. Mason’s crew is made up of approximately 320 officers and enlisted personnel.