KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee’s namesake, USS Tennessee, now has a new commander following a change of command ceremony in Kings Bay, Georgia, on Jan. 14. Cmdr. Matt Wilson relieved Cmdr. Justin Kaper as the commanding officer of the ship’s Blue Crew.

The outgoing commander, Kaper, took command of the Blue Crew in March 2020.

“When I first got orders to Tennessee Blue, I understandably started doing research on my new boat,” Kaper said. “One of the first things that struck me, was finding out that we have the absolute best motto — ‘America At Its Best!’ As I’ve gotten to work with these outstanding sailors on both crews over the last two years, I can tell you all that USS Tennessee lives up to that motto.

“Getting the opportunity to work with my crew has been the ultimate experience of my professional career. This crew is full of awesome people, and you have made this the best possible tour I could have imagined, far exceeding my expectations.”

Under his leadership, the crew successfully completed an extended refit period and deployment. They were awarded the 2020 Commander, Submarine Squadron 20 Weapons White “W” award, and achieved an above-average performance on a maintenance and material management inspection, enabling the first-ever completion of multiple base-wide drills. Capt. John Cage, commodore of Commander, Submarine Squadron 20, praised Kaper and Tennessee’s Blue Crew for their hard work during the ceremony.

“The proof of Justin’s leadership is borne out not only in mission accomplishment through a successful strategic deterrent patrol lasting over 100 days while providing record-level mission execution, but also in the success of his Sailors,” Cage said.

The incoming commanding officer, Wilson, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in ocean engineering and received a Master of Business Administration from the Naval Postgraduate School.

“To the crew of Tennessee, you are America at its best,” Wilson said. “I am excited to have the opportunity to lead and work alongside each of you. You are critical to the success of the ship and the execution of the strategic mission and I am confident in your ability to continue to excel.”

The USS Tennesse is an Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine, these submarines are specifically designed for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, where the ceremony was held, is home to all east coast Ohio-class submarines.

The Blue crew is one of two crews on the ship, the other is the Gold crew. According to CNA, having two crews for one ship allows the Navy to lengthen a ship’s deployment without increasing the length of a crew’s deployment.