NORFOLK (NNS) -- The San Diego-based Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and Norfolk, Va.-based USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) were selected for the Navy's Battle Efficiency (Battle "E") honor Feb. 10.
The Battle "E" is awarded annually to the small number of U.S. Navy ships that win their battle effectiveness competition. The Battle "E" is designed to measure and recognize a command's sustained superior performance and battle efficiency in an operational environment through the calendar year.
And on the two ships - separated by the length of the United States - serve two lifelong friends, each a winner in the competition.
Carl Vinson's Culinary Specialist (CS) Seaman Phillip Collins, assigned to Supply Department's S-2 division, grew up with Bush's Aviation Ordnanceman (AO) Airman Ryan Cowan, assigned to Weapons Department's G-1 division, in their hometown of Los Angeles. Though not related by blood, the "godbrothers'" relationship runs deep throughout the years spent together.
"We grew up together, went to all four years of high school together, and our parents are really good friends," Collins said. "I've known him all my life."
Throughout their lives, the spirit of competition has and will always be a key element in their relationship.
"We're always competing with each other," said Cowan. "Whether it's sports, video games, or professional accomplishments, we're constantly trying to out-do the other."
In high school, the brothers' thoughts turned to the future. Both were determined to join the Navy together as hospital corpsmen (HM). Collins elected to go to college first, while Cowan chose to join the Navy immediately.
"At the time he joined, he wanted to leave immediately. But HM wasn't open, and AO was, so he took that," Collins said. "When I finally decided to go about a year later, CS was open, and I didn't want to wait to be an AO or HM."
Their families' reaction to the brothers' decision was initially of concern.
"They wanted both of us to go to college. They were kind of scared, they didn't want us to get hurt or anything like that," Collins said. "But now they're very proud of us."
Collins reported to Carl Vinson September 2010, and contributed to the effort in Supply Department's earning the highest recorded score of 99.3 for the ship's Supply Management Inspection three months later. The inspection was worth 40 of 100 points for the "Blue 'E'" Battle "E" departmental award.
Although the distance separating them is great, both Collins and Cowan make it a priority to communicate with one another on a regular basis.
"We send emails regularly to stay in touch, but anytime I have an opportunity to travel back to California, we get together," said Cowan.
It's through those e-mails and occasional vacation time, that they keep their competitive streak alive, incorporating the achievement of professional goals.
"We battle about warfare pins. I'm working on my surface pin, and he's working on his air pin. I'm winning right now, because I'm about to take my murder board," Collins said.
For Collins, the Battle "E" represents a personal and professional point of pride and a well-deserved acknowledgement for Vinson's back-to-back combat deployments.
"It's a great accomplishment. I'm proud of my chain of command, my ship. It's pretty cool. We worked really hard these two deployments. We haven't been home a lot, and we're being recognized for those sacrifices," he said.
Cowan said that for him, the Battle "E" is a culmination of the hard work and sacrifice that he and so many others put in during deployment.
"This award reflects the dedication to success that we have on board the ship," said Cowan. "Our Weapons Department worked really hard for this, and I'm happy to be a part of something special."
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