SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. Walter Doran awarded USS Princeton (CG 59) the Spokane Trophy Award May 3 during a ceremony held aboard ship.
Doran chose Princeton to receive the highly accredited trophy for its overall excellence in surface ship combat systems readiness and warfare operations during 2003. This is the second time in 10 years the ship has earned the prestigious award.
"The Spokane Trophy is really a remarkable achievement," Doran said. "(Since 1908) this trophy has been awarded once a year to the best-of-the-best, the ship that is the best in the business in the Pacific Fleet in combat readiness, combat training and combat capability."
First presented by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, the trophy is valued at more than $4 million and is crafted of 400 ounces of silver. It depicts areas of Spokane, Wash., and the silver mining community. The trophy also bears the names of the last 96 ships that have won it, including USS Arizona (BB 39) and USS West Virginia (BB 48). It is normally kept under armed guard and is viewed only once per year for the presentation ceremony.
When being considered for the award, a ship is scrutinized from operational and training accomplishments, exercise scenarios, how their work-ups have gone, to achievements when deployed.
"It really reflects the total work of the crew throughout a year's period," said Doran.
While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Princeton played an integral part in providing air defense capabilities to U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility assets. The ship drastically reduced the number of 1,500 identification conflicts per hour to a mere 50 when using USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Strike Group's Cooperative Engagement Capability and Link Monitoring System, improving both tactical and situational awareness.
Because of its reputation, Princeton was selected to provide air defense and early warning for President George W. Bush's visit to the Persian Gulf region when he visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and then a flight over Iraq.
The ship also engaged in numerous maritime intercept operations in search of oil and weapons smugglers in the Persian Gulf. Princeton supervised numerous coalition ships, U.S. Coast Guard and patrol craft for more than 170 boardings.
While conducting warfare operations, Princeton also managed to fit several training exercises into their schedule, including weekly Tomahawk missile exercises, air defense, maintaining proficiency in anti-submarine warfare and conducting cross-training with SEALs (Sea, Air, Land).
Capt. "Red" Smith, commanding officer, has won the Spokane Trophy three times. He was serving as Princeton's executive officer in 1994 when the ship last won the award. He also won while serving as a department head aboard a frigate.
"It gets better every time," Smith said. "I get a bigger kick out of it now, watching how excited these guys are to see this trophy."
Princeton's combat system officer, Lt. Cmdr. Colvert Burgos, said teamwork and a culmination of two years' hard work was essential in winning the award, and the recognition is much welcomed.
"There is a great history with Princeton, and I'm sure it will continue as Sailors come and go," said Burgos. "There will be a legacy of what each Sailor does that will stay behind."
For Cisneros, it was the very same legacy that attracted him to Princeton two years ago. "Before I came to Princeton, I was told they had a reputation as being the best, and coming here and actually being part of the best is a great thing," he said.
Princeton is a member of Cruiser Destroyer Group 5, commanded by Rear Adm. D. C. Curtis.
For related news, visit the USS Princeton (CG 59) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cg59.