By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Smith, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Japan
May 5, 2010 - YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The officers and crew of guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), forward-deployed to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, learned their command was announced as the 2009 Spokane Trophy recipient on April 15.
The award recognized the hard work of the ship's 270-plus crew members last year, as they maintained a high level of operational readiness, demonstrated in both training scenarios and real world events.
"Across the board, all awards are very important," said Cmdr. Paul Hogue Jr., Curtis Wilbur's commanding officer. "It feels good to get the recognition, whether it's the Spokane Trophy or any unit award; it's very important for the crew to get recognition for what they do. It was definitely a team effort. If one division can't support the mission, it affects the whole crew."
The Spokane Trophy is an annual award presented to the Pacific Fleet's surface ship with the highest level of operational readiness in areas ranging from coordinated air warfare, surface warfare and undersea warfare operations.
"We supported the command mission by making sure the ship stayed as ready as we could make it," said Damage Controlman 1st Class Kevin Christopher, repair division's leading petty officer. "It helps our morale by letting us know that we are appreciated."
The Spokane Trophy dates back to 1907, when the Spokane Washington Chamber of Commerce worked with the city's Spanish War Veterans to commission the construction of the trophy to honor Spokane Sailors. The trophy, crafted from 400 ounces of silver, is worth nearly $4 million. In 1908, it was first awarded to USS Tennessee for superior marksmanship. The annual award was temporarily halted in 1941 prior to World War II and resumed again in 1984. Curtis Wilbur is the 34th ship to be named as Spokane Trophy winner in the award's history.
"I spent a lot of my time tracking contacts and participating in training scenarios," said Operations Specialist Seaman Rasha Urtecho. "It is an accomplishment, we worked really hard and everybody made sacrifices. It's recognition for all the work that we did."
Curtis Wilbur participated in various training exercises in 2009, showcasing the interoperability between the U.S. Navy and partner nations. The crew put its training to good use, turning potential into outstanding performance while working alongside Republic of Korea Navy counterparts in Foal Eagle 09 and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force sailors at Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX).
"I have always known we have an outstanding crew and this award just validates that," said Hogue. "I think that this was an outstanding accomplishment and a lot of hard work went into it."
Curtis Wilbur is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and is permanently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.