The Sailors Who Saved USS Fitzgerald
On Friday, thirty-six sailors who distinguished themselves for their bravery and contributions to damage control efforts aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald were recognized at an awards ceremony in Yokosuka, Japan.
Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of 7th Fleet, awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal to 36 members of the Fitzgerald crew and a Flag Letter of Commendation to the ship's two ombudsmen for their support to families. The Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal is awarded to service members who distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service.
Commendation medals and citations staged for presentation (USN)
The Fitzgerald collision with the merchant ship ACX Crystal on June 17 was among the most serious non-combat Navy casualties in recent years. Seven of the Fitzgerald's crewmembers were killed in the accident: Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25; Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37.
Three more were wounded, including the destroyer's commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who has since been relieved of command. The Navy’s initial investigation found that human factors were largely responsible for the accident.
Following the collision, the Fitzgerald’s crew fought back against progressive flooding across 19 spaces for more than 16 hours. Facing constant peril from flooding, electrocution, structural damage and noxious fumes, these sailors prevented further loss of life and ultimately saved the ship.
The list of personnel receiving awards is as follows:
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Alexander R. Vaughn
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Johsua E. Tapia
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
(Gold star in lieu of second award) Chief Fire Controlman Travius L. Caldwell
Chief Gunner's Mate Jared B. Ogilvie
Damage Controlman 1st Class Emanuel Ascensio
Quartermaster 1st Class Carlos G. Clark
Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Lucas W. Giles
Damage Controlman 2nd Class Sabria D. Greaves
Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Darion L. Hunter
Damage Controlman 2nd Class David J. Marnien
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Joshua A. Mason
Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Sanerive J. Meredith
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jackson T. Schrimsher
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Matthew H. Stawecki
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Romel A. Wade
Damage Controlman 2nd Class Rebekah Wilson
Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Aaron R. Aurelio
Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Danya A. Cribbs
Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Samuel A. Hill
Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Nathan W. Lauritzen
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Joshua H. Rodriguez
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Louis B. Simeone
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Ryan P. Sorensen
Hospitalman Gaylord M. Lawrence
Fireman Matthew J. Mugg
Fireman Tyler D. Perkey
Fireman James A. Strickland
Flag Letter of Commendation
The Navy has awarded a contract to move Fitzgerald via a heavy-lift vessel to Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) in Pascagoula, Mississippi, for restoration. The cost of rebuilding FItzgerald and her sister ship USS John S. McCain, which was damaged in a separate collision, is projected to exceed $600 million.