Navy authorizes combat awards and devices for Red Sea operations

by Vern Evans

The Navy is now authorizing combat awards for sailors serving in the Red Sea area, according to a message sent to the fleet Wednesday by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.

The authorization is a nod to the constant and perilous work of Navy warships and sailors who have battled Iran-backed Houthi rebels off Yemen since the fall.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and Israel’s subsequent incursion into the Gaza Strip, Navy destroyers and fighter jets stationed aboard the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower have intercepted a steady stream of Houthi attack drones and rockets fired at military and commercial vessels in the region.

Del Toro’s message Wednesday states that those serving within that area are eligible to be awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, as well as personal military decorations that include the “V” and “C” devices, for valor and combat, respectively, including the Bronze Star Medal without devices.

The Air Medal is now authorized for operations in the region, but only for the “Strike/Flight” designation, which requires participation in sustained aerial operations within the designated airspace.

This new authorization is effective from Oct. 19 onward.

On that date, the men and women of the destroyer Carney shot down a barrage of Houthi drones and missiles that the group fired at Israel, the first of many engagements for Carney that most recently involved helping to shoot down Iran’s April 14 attack on Israel.

The then-head of U.S. 5th Fleet, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, visited the ship in January and presented combat awards to five sailors for their “exceptional performance” when the warship shot down 14 Houthi air drones on Dec. 16.

Carney’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Jeremy Robertson, and another unidentified sailor received Navy Commendation medals from Cooper, while three other crew members received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals.

The entire crew also received the combat action ribbon in January, an honor rarely bestowed on Navy crews in modern times.

Fellow Navy destroyers Thomas Hudner, Arleigh Burke, Gravely, Mason and Laboon have also intercepted Houthi and Iranian attacks in recent months.

Sailors aboard fellow destroyers Mason and Nitze, as well as the amphibious transport docks Ponce and San Antonio, received the ribbon in 2017, after they were fired upon by Houthi rebels.

Before that, few crews had received the distinction since the 1991 Gulf War, but those aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge received one for an incident off Jordan in 2005.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at [email protected].

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