Last week, the United States Navy awarded 36 USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) sailors for their heroic efforts following the June 17th collision between their vessel and a larger merchant vessel in the Tokyo Bay.

Earlier this year, the Navy relieved Commander Bryce Benson, who was seriously injured in the collision, from command of the Fitzgerald, as well as Commander Sean Babbitt and command master chief, Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin, all of whom were cited for “inadequate leadership” that resulted in the deadly collision.  A number of other sailors were also either relieved or subject to various administrative punishments, such as permanent remarks in their service records or non-judicial punishments.  However, nearly two months after those punishments were handed down, the Navy saw fit to commend those sailors who found themselves amid a chaotic and dangerous situation, and immediately set to work saving lives and, in no uncertain terms, the ship itself, which was taking on water.

“Following the collision, which claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald Sailors, the crew fought back against progressive flooding across 19 spaces for more than 16 consecutive hours,” according to a Navy news release. “Facing constant peril from flooding, electrocution, structural damage and noxious fumes, these Sailors prevented further loss of life and ultimately saved the ship.”

These sailors were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, which is reserved for those who “distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service,” according to the release.

Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, who took control the U.S. 7th Fleet from Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin when he too was relieved of his command after a rash of embarrassing and tragic incidents befell Navy ships in the Pacific, presided over the award ceremony, presenting each sailor with the medal.  He also presented a Flag Letter of Commendation to the ship’s two ombudsmen for their support to families.

The Sailors awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal were as follows:

  • Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Alexander R. Vaughn (Surface Warfare)
  • Fire Controlman 2nd Class Johsua E. Tapia (Surface Warfare)
  • Lt. j.g. Stephany M. Breau
  • Lt. j.g. Heather A. Bui
  • Ens. Joseph A. White
  • (Gold star in lieu of third award) Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate Christopher Perez (Surface Warfare/Expeditionary Warfare)
  • (Gold star in lieu of second award) Chief Fire Controlman Travius L. Caldwell (Surface Warfare)
  • Chief Gunner’s Mate Jared B. Ogilvie (Surface Warfare/Expeditionary Warfare)
  • Damage Controlman 1st Class Emanuel Ascensio (Surface Warfare/Aviation Warfare)
  • Quartermaster 1st Class Carlos G. Clark (Surface Warfare)
  • Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Lucas W. Giles (Surface Warfare)
  • Damage Controlman 2nd Class Sabria D. Greaves (Surface Warfare)
  • Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Darion L. Hunter (Surface Warfare)
  • Damage Controlman 2nd Class David J. Marnien (Surface Warfare)
  • Electronics Technician 2nd Class Joshua A. Mason (Surface Warfare)
  • Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Sanerive J. Meredith (Surface Warfare)
  • Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jackson T. Schrimsher (Surface Warfare)
  • Operations Specialist 2nd Class Matthew H. Stawecki (Surface Warfare)
  • Fire Controlman 2nd Class Romel A. Wade (Surface Warfare)
  • Damage Controlman 2nd Class Rebekah Wilson (Surface Warfare)
  • Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Aaron R. Aurelio
  • Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Danya A. Cribbs
  • Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Samuel A. Hill (Surface Warfare)
  • Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Nathan W. Lauritzen
  • Damage Controlman 3rd Class Joshua H. Rodriguez
  • Damage Controlman 3rd Class Louis B. Simeone (Surface Warfare)
  • Damage Controlman 3rd Class Ryan P. Sorensen
  • Hospitalman Gaylord M. Lawrence
  • Fireman Matthew J. Mugg
  • Fireman Tyler D. Perkey
  • Fireman James A. Strickland


The USS Fitzgerald’s collision in June was one of four high-profile incidents to occur within the last year, including another collision between an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, and a commercial vessel within weeks of the Fitzgerald mishap.  Earlier in the year, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a commercial fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan, and a few months prior, the USS Antietam ran aground.  The Navy has since set about a comprehensive review of training and rotational procedures, to attempt to identify and remedy the issues plaguing America’s Pacific presence.


Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy