ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy League of the United States presented Capt. Richard Phillips the Admiral Arleigh Burke Leadership Award June 13 at the Westin Arlington Gateway.
"The Arleigh Burke Leadership Award is our most prestigious award," said J. Michael McGrath, national president of the Navy League. "[We are proud] to recognize such a hero [as Captain Phillips].
Phillips was the master of MV Maersk Alabama when it was hijacked in April by Somali pirates. To ensure that his crew was released, he offered himself to the pirates as a hostage.
"It's truly incredible to be chosen for this, I don't see myself as a hero... to be honored by this group is truly an honor," Phillips said.
U.S. naval forces, including SEALS, rescued Phillips April 12.
Following the rescue, Phillips was initially taken aboard the Norfolk, Va., based guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96).
"The USS Bainbridge, a multimission DDG, was forward deployed and able to respond quickly because it's trained and capable of performing a number of missions simultaneously," said guest speaker and former Bainbridge Sailor Vice Adm. Michael Vitale, commander, Navy Installations Command.
"It was able to respond to the Maersk Alabama and support that operation directed by [U.S. Central Command] through 5th Fleet so that we were able to ensure the safety of Captain Phillips."
After arriving on Bainbridge, Phillips was subsequently flown to the San Diego based amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) before heading home to the United States. At the time, both ships were part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151.
Originally commanded and staffed by the U.S. Navy, CTF 151 is now commanded by the Turkish Navy. The command staff is comprised of personnel from Turkey, the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan and Greece.
CTF 151 is a multinational task force established to conduct counterpiracy operations under a mission-based mandate throughout the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) area of responsibility to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.
"I think in September I'm looking to get back in my rotation... I think I'm still on the Maersk Alabama, so wherever the ship is, I intend to be there," said Phillips.
"With the right assets and the Navy still there, I have no problem going back to that same run."
On any given day in the region, more than a dozen warships conduct counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the Eastern coast of Somalia.
"A major contributor to our success against piracy is our ability to coordinate our actions and operations with other professional navies," said Turkish Navy Rear Adm. Caner Bener, commander, CTF 151.
"With more than 1 million square miles to patrol, synchronizing our collective efforts is essential to ensure we're protecting sea lines of communication as effectively and efficiently as possible."
The Burke award, the Navy League's most prestigious leadership award, is named for Navy Admiral Arleigh Burke. The organization believes Burke was an American hero whose achievements, ethical standards, and unselfish dedication personify all that is noble in the American character.
Past recipients of his namesake award include H. Ross Perot, George H. W. Bush, Thomas H. Moorer, John McCain, James B. Stockdale, and James M. Loy.
"[When determining the recipient, we] look at the leadership traits of the person and how he has demonstrated them over a long period of time," said McGrath. [Just look at Captain Phillips] who has been at sea a long time, travelled many many miles around the world and had the most demanding jobs."
The Navy League is a non-profit civilian organization headquartered in Arlington with 60,000 members worldwide. Its mission for more than 100 years has been to educate the American people and their leaders about the enduring importance of sea power to a maritime nation, and to support the men and women of our sea services.
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