Former High Point Mayor Bill Bencini can breathe a sigh of relief – his son Michael, who was given command by the US Navy of a destroyer in early 2022, has returned the keys to the giant vessel with it still in good running condition.
On Saturday, April 30 of last year, US Navy Commander Mike Bencini – a High Point native and the son of Bill Bencini – took command of the USS Sampson in Busan, South Korea.
The Sampson is a destroyer that was christened in 2006 in Maine. It’s the fourth US Navy ship that was named after the late Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, who was known for his heroism in the Spanish-American War.
In a ceremony at Naval Station Everett in Everett, Washington, on Friday, Sept. 29, Mike Bencini, after his term of commander of the vessel expired, turned the ship over to a new commander.
Early last year, when Bill Bencini found out that his son was being made the commander of the large ship, he joked in the Rhino Times, “Who would give command of a billion-dollar warship to a Bencini?”
The answer, of course, is the US Navy – which gave command of the guided missile destroyer to the younger Bencini.
In that transfer ceremony last year, Commander Mike Bencini became the Sampson’s 11th commanding officer. Now he will be relieved by Commander James Hostetler.
After serving as the ship’s executive officer during a US. 7th Fleet deployment, Bencini was awarded command of the Sampson.
The ship has spent the past four months docked and under repair.
“I am very proud of the crew and the work we accomplished, while focusing on Sampson Nation’s core warfighting ethos of ‘All Heart, Grit & Grind, and Winning at Sea,” Mike Bencini said. “Working together, we demonstrated how to make a challenging maintenance period a great experience.”
Bencini’s next assignment will be in landlocked Tennessee in the Office of Naval Personnel Command.
Admiral William Sampson was especially known for his victory in the battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War. In early July of 1898, Cuba and Commander Sampson completely destroyed the Spanish fleet in a five-hour sea battle. Upon victory, Sampson sent his famous message: “The Fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present, the whole of Cervera’s Fleet.”
Mike Bencini graduated from Vanderbilt University and later earned his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Memphis. His first duty at sea was in 2004 when he worked on a ship doing electrical repair work.