Defense Media Network

Surface Navy Association’s Old Salt Award Passed to Adm. Philip S. Davidson

By Yonca Poyraz-Dogan, Navy Office of Information Public Affairs

Adm. Philip S. Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), became the Navy’s newest “Old Salt” during an award presentation Oct. 22 at the Pentagon.

The “Old Salt” award is given to the active duty officer who has held the Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualification for the longest amount of time.

Initiated in 1988, the “Old Salt” award is accompanied by a bronze statue depicting a naval officer on the pitching deck of a ship. The statue is cast from metal salvaged from historic U.S. naval ships, most notably the battleship USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor in 1898, precipitating the Spanish-American War.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive this award. I have been fortunate to be part of this organization for more than 35 years, serving alongside a number of amazing men and women. This award honors them, those who have come before, and those still yet to serve,” said Davidson who became the 20th recipient of the award, which is sponsored by the Surface Navy Association (SNA).

A 1982 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Davidson is the 25th commander of USINDOPACOM, America’s oldest and largest military combatant command located in Hawaii. As a surface warfare officer, he has deployed across the globe in frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers.

Davidson received the award from Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of the U.S. Southern Command.

Initiated in 1988, the “Old Salt” award is accompanied by a bronze statue depicting a naval officer on the pitching deck of a ship. The statue is cast from metal salvaged from historic U.S. naval ships, most notably the battleship USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor in 1898, precipitating the Spanish-American War.

Old Salt Award

The Old Salt Award, a bronze statue that depicts a WWII naval officer on a pitching deck of a ship. The award is sponsored by the Surface Navy Association (SNA) and is given to the longest serving active-duty officer who is surface warfare officer (SWO) qualified. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul L. Archer

Holding the award since 2015, Tidd said, “From its very earliest days, our Navy has been before all else a profession of Sailors – that closely knit team of men and women who have made it their life’s work to ‘go down to the sea in ships.’  It’s been an honor and a privilege to play a small part in the history of this organization and to have held the title of ‘Old Salt.’  As I pass this distinction on to Admiral Davidson, I also pass along my very best wishes to him, our Navy’s newest ‘Old Salt’.”

“Old Salts” have their names engraved on brass plates attached to the base of the “Old Salt” statue. The statue is then held in the custody of the current “Old Salt” during the recipient’s active duty tenure. The “Old Salt” trophy may be kept in possession of the recipient or displayed by the command to which the Old Salt is assigned.

The issuance of the Old Salt Award is a tribute to the Navy’s customs and traditions which call the respected, experienced, knowledgeable and senior surface warfare officer with the designation as “old salt.”

At the ceremony, Davidson and Tidd took a photo with Taylor Randall, the youngest SWO in the room, who received her service warfare qualification in 2016.

The prestigious award has been held by numerous distinguished leaders, such as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and former Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Adm. John Harvey.

Upon Davidson’s retirement, the statue will be passed on to the next officer, who will be determined by a search of records, a recommendation by director of surface warfare, and approval by the Board of the SNA, which is a professional organization composed of both military and civilian members dedicated to enhance awareness and support of the U.S. Navy and the surface forces.

The Surface Warfare director of the Department of the Navy determines which officers meet the award criteria which include being in continuous active duty and surface warfare qualification letters.

The prestigious award has been held by numerous distinguished leaders, such as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and former Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Adm. John Harvey.

Former holders of the “Old Salt” award include Adm. Lee Baggett, Jr.; Rear Adm. Lawrence Layman; Vice Adm. Albert J. Herberger; Vice Adm. Joseph S. Donnell III; Adm. David E. Jeremiah; Vice Adm. David M. Bennett; Vice Adm. Philip M. Quast; Rear Adm. George F. A. Wagner; Rear Adm. George A. Huchting; Rear Adm. Dennis R. Conley; Rear Adm. James B. Ferguson III; Vice Adm. James F. Amerault; Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt; Adm. Mike Mullen; Adm. John C. Harvey, Jr.; VADM John T. Blake; VADM Michael A. LeFever; and ADM Samuel J. Locklear III.


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