NORFOLK (NNS) -- The "Old Salt" designation, honoring the Navy's Surface Warfare Officer serving on active duty with the earliest Officer of the Deck (OOD) fleet qualification, changed hands during a ceremony aboard USS San Antonio (LPD 17) at Naval Station Norfolk, Dec. 16.
The qualification passed from retired Adm. Mike Mullen to Adm. John C. Harvey, Jr., commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
The "Old Salt" award was initiated in 1988, by the Surface Navy Association (SNA) and is accompanied by a bronze statue depicting a World War II naval officer on the pitching deck of a ship. The statue is cast from metal salvaged from historic U.S. naval ships, most notably the battleship USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor in 1898, precipitating the Spanish-American War.
Mullen held the award since 2007, and recently retired as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Mullen was unable to attend the ceremony, so retired Vice Adm. Hank Giffin, East Coast vice president of the Surface Navy Association (SNA) passed the "Old Salt" designation to Harvey, who earned his OOD letter in 1977 aboard USS Bainbridge (CGN 25).
"We have had 14 "Old Salts" since 1988, and today we recognize our number 15," said Giffin. "This award reflects the ideal of the Surface Navy and the tradition of our heritage."
During the presentation Harvey spoke about the importance of those around him through the years that contributed to his success and reasoning for staying in the Navy for as long as he has.
"As much as things have changed since June 6, 1973, the most important thing that is unchanged has been people like you, the Sailors, chiefs, and officers who have dedicated themselves for four years or 40," said Harvey. "You come through for your ship, Navy, and nation."
After the presentation Harvey reflected on his past as a young OOD on board USS Bainbridge.
"I remember when I first qualified; we were in the Gulf of Thailand working with USS Constellation (CV 64) and 14 other ships in tough formations, and I can remember very well those long watches during those intense period of activities," said Harvey.
As the ceremony came to a conclusion on the San Antonio, some of the junior officers spoke about the impact Harvey's message had on them.
"It's amazing to imagine that Adm. Harvey was in my shoes, and to be part of the tradition that he is speaking of is really nice," said Ensign Nick Artabazon, USS San Antonio.
The custodian of the "Old Salt" upon his or her retirement passes the responsibility to instill the ideals of the Surface Warfare Community, the core values of the Navy, and the tradition of the surface warrior to the next "Old Salt," and a miniature replica of the statue is presented to each "Old Salt" as he or she retires.
Previous holders of the "Old Salt" award were Adm. Lee Baggett, Jr.; Rear Adm. Lawrence Layman; Vice Adm. Albert J. Herberger; Vice Adm. Joseph S. Donnell III; Adm. David E. Jeremiah; Vice Adm. David M. Bennett; Vice Adm. Philip M. Quast; Rear Adm. George F. A. Wagner; Rear Adm. George A. Huchting; Rear Adm. Dennis R. Conley; Rear Adm. James B. Ferguson III; Vice Adm. James F. Amerault and Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt.
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