NORFOLK (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command announced that the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was awarded the 2016 Battenberg Cup, May 23.
The Battenberg Cup is awarded annually to the best all-around ship or submarine in the United States Navy's Atlantic Fleet based on crew achievements. The Battenberg Cup is presented to only one of the nearly 100 eligible surface ships, aircraft carriers, and submarines.
"I could not be more proud of the destroyermen of Mason," said Cmdr. Stephen Aldridge, Mason's commanding officer. "It was truly a team effort from our INSURV (inspection and survey) in January 2016, all the way through a tremendously successful deployment which concluded in December 2016."
Mason is only the fifth destroyer in the last 111 years to receive the award, competing against larger ships including aircraft carriers and amphibious ships. It began as a competition between American and British Sailors. In 1941, the same trophy that Mason will receive, went down with the battleship USS West Virginia (BB 47), and was raised with her following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since then, the cup has been refinished and the competition between American ships has resumed, with the silver cup representing the best of the best.
Through a steady focus on the positive development of Sailors as a command priority, the crew was awarded the Golden Anchor award for personnel program excellence. The excellence continued with 99 percent of Mason petty officers qualifying as enlisted surface warfare specialists. The Mason also won the 2016 Battle Efficiency and unit tactics awards from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26.
Over the last year, Mason conducted an extraordinary amount of operations and events. She traveled approximately 63,916 nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Celtic Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and Indian Ocean. On deployment, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 47, Combat Element 3, conducted flight operations almost daily with 348 sorties resulting in nearly 1,000 hours of flight time.
Prior to deployment, Mason conducted one of the most advanced anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) live-fire exercise in U.S. naval history.
During deployment, the crew hosted then-Sectary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of the Italian Navy Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi aboard for an Italian passing exercise (PASSEX) and replenishment at sea with the Italian Navy, serving as an exceptional showcase for the Great Green Fleet initiative in June 2016. Mason took more than 14,000 gallons of biofuel from Italian navy oiler ITA Etna, in support of our NATO partnership with Italy.
In October 2016, Mason successfully defended itself, three other U.S. warships and multiple U.S. flagged merchant vessels during missile attacks in the Red Sea. Mason employed standard missile (SM-2) defensive interceptors and is the only warship in U.S. naval history to successfully employ the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) while under attack.
Mason's actions protected 1,000 U.S. Sailors across the warships and countless more mariners in merchant vessels. The courage and poise in battle earned praise from around the fleet and Navy. Additionally, many of Mason's tactical operating procedures and lessons learned across the three separate attacks are now being used to increase combat readiness and toughness across the force.
"I reported to Mason on day two of the attacks in the Red Sea. This crew, our crew performed admirably and I am humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to work with the best and toughest crew and ship in the U.S. Navy. Mason has proven itself time and time again and has earned this recognition," said Cmdr. Christopher Schwarz, Mason's executive officer.
Mason performed duties as the activated alternate air and missile defense commander (AMDC) and provided valuable protection to air assets for the USS Wasp Amphibious Readiness Group supporting Operation Restore Hope. Additionally, Mason provided air and surface defense for the FS Charles De Gaulle Carrier Strike Group and Task Force 473 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. As the only U.S. warship in company with multiple NATO partners, Mason's seamless integration into French carrier operations and proactive attitude earned praise from their strike group commander.
During the deployment, Mason also rendered aid to stranded mariners.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment for the men and women of USS Mason and is the result of great leadership and teamwork," said Capt. Scott Switzer, commodore of DESRON 26. "Cmdr. Chris Gilbertson, the ship's commanding officer in 2016 along with Cmdr. Steve Aldridge, then the ship's executive officer, forged an outstanding team of professionals from the deckplates up. I am incredibly proud of every member of this crew. They are an exceptional group, tremendous warfighters and superior Sailors in every respect."
Mason is currently at its homeport of Norfolk conducting sustainment operations as part of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP).
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