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Fleet Forces Commander Becomes Navy’s ‘Old Salt’

The ‘Old Salt,' an award that recognizes the extensive knowledge and expertise of the longest-serving surface warfare officer (SWO) in the surface warfare community, was presented to Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, April 30.
The ‘Old Salt,' an award that recognizes the extensive knowledge and expertise of the longest-serving surface warfare officer (SWO) in the surface warfare community, was presented to Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, April 3

Published May 3, 2021 9:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

Transfer of the award, a bronze statue depicting a World War II officer on a pitching deck, is an honor steeped in tradition. The clock begins when an officer becomes fully qualified as a SWO and runs until they pass the title on at their retirement.

Grady officially accepted the award from Adm. Philip Davidson, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, following Davidson’s retirement April 30, 2021. Davidson earned his SWO qualification in June 1980 and has held the award since October 2018.

"The 'Old Salt' award honors those who have served before us and those still yet to set sail," said Davidson. "We share the bonds of sea service; it's passed on through our customs and traditions, and it's linked to our values and our heritage."

Grady has been a SWO for 35 years, qualifying in May 1986 while serving onboard the Spruance-class destroyer USS Moosbrugger (DD 980).

Reflecting on what it meant to then-Ensign Grady to earn his surface warfare pin, Adm. Grady said, “I remember well the rigorous qualification program we had on Moose; it really meant something to get that pin! I also remember the strong mentorship from my Captain, Cmdr. Toby Spahr, who was, and remains the consummate role model of a surface warrior,” he said. “Also from my department head, Lt. Gary Stussey who personified excellence, and especially from my chief, Senior Chief Operations Specialist Burek, who always challenged me to strive to be the best, like him,” said Grady.

To accept the award, Grady traveled to the Norfolk waterfront to stand on board one of his favorite ships in the fleet.

“It is the honor of a lifetime to join the outstanding crew of determined warriors onboard USS Cole, which I had the privilege to command, and humbly accept the title and statue of ‘Old Salt’ from a true friend, and outstanding surface warrior - but even more so, to represent each and every sailor that mans the rails, and stands the watch,” said Grady.

He went on to say that the ‘Old Salt’ Award truly honors the surface warriors of our past and our future.

“Right now, surface warriors underway across the world are defending far forward, standing the watch – always ready, always resolute, and always lethal on arrival. And in this maritime era of Great Power Competition, we proudly take station at the 'tip of the spear' as the nation’s varsity away team,” said Grady..

The ‘Old Salt’ of the Navy is selected after a records review and approved by both the Surface Warfare director of the Department of the Navy and the Board of the Surface Navy Association (SNA), which is a professional organization composed of both military and civilian members dedicated to enhancing awareness and support of the U.S. Navy and the surface forces.

"Some of us are new to the Navy and the sea, and we rely on those who have gone before us to pass down our lore, customs, and traditions," said retired Vice Adm. Rick Hunt, SNA president. "It is the 'Old Salts' who have made it possible for our traditions to be kept alive."

The ‘Old Salt’ statue, made of metal salvaged from several U.S. Navy ships like the battleship USS Maine (ACR 1), is engraved with the words “Dedicated to Service,” by Adm. Arleigh Burke, “Keeper of the Seas.” An engraved plate with Grady's name has been added to its base.

Davidson was given a miniature replica of the statue upon his retirement.

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