USS Carney sailors awarded for battling Houthi attacks in Red Sea

Sailors assigned to the Navy destroyer Carney stand watch in the ship’s Combat Information Center during an operation to defeat a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles on Oct. 19, 2023, in the Red Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau/Navy)

Multiple sailors aboard the Navy destroyer Carney have received awards in recent weeks for their actions during a busy deployment that saw them shooting down dozens of missiles and attack drones purportedly fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels at ships in the Red Sea.

Carney deployed ahead of the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group this fall.

On Tuesday, the head of U.S. 5th Fleet, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, visited the ship and presented “combat medals” to five sailors for their “exceptional performance” when the warship shot down 14 Houthi air drones on Dec. 16.

Carney’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Jeremy Robertson, and another unidentified sailor received Navy Commendation medals from Cooper, while three other crew members received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals.

The entire crew also received the combat action ribbon, or CAR for short, an honor rarely bestowed on Navy crews in modern times.

Sailors aboard fellow destroyers Mason and Nitze, as well as the amphibious transport docks Ponce and San Antonio, received the ribbon in 2017, after they were fired upon by Houthi rebels.

Before that, few crews had received the distinction since the 1991 Gulf War, but those aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge received one for an incident off Jordan in 2005.

Since October, Carney has been at the forefront of operations to take out Houthi drones and missiles in the economically vital Red Sea, as commercial vessels have repeatedly come under attack by the Iran allies as the Israel-Hamas war continues to rage.

Officials have regularly declined to say whether Carney and other Navy destroyers are the targets of the attack drones they have taken out.

But the Navy’s combat action ribbon eligibility guidance states that a sailor “must have rendered satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or surface combat engagement,” suggesting that the Carney was in fact intercepting attack drones that meant to do the warship and its sailors harm.

Before Cooper’s visit Tuesday, the head of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, visited Carney last month and awarded 21 Carney sailors for their actions during a multi-hour engagement on Oct. 19 where the crew “defended the ship and their Shipmates from a complex air attack” involving drones and missiles during a three-hour engagement, Navy officials said.

Kurilla also brought “over 1,000 pounds of barbecue” for the hard-working Carney crew, according to CENTCOM, which equals out to several pounds of deliciousness for each sailor onboard.

US Navy sinks Houthi small boats during hijack attempt in Red Sea

Those receiving Navy commendation or achievement medals from Kurilla during December’s visit include two fire controlmen (Aegis) 3rd class, a fire controlman 2nd class, two fire controlmen (Aegis) 2nd class, one fire controlman (Aegis) 1st class, one chief operations specialist, one chief fire controlman, one chief cryptologic technician, two chief gunner’s mates, two chief fire controlmen (Aegis), one senior chief operations specialist, four lieutenants and two lieutenant commanders.

The ship’s commanding officer received a Bronze Star Medal for his efforts as well.

To date, the U.S. military has not struck Houthi positions in Yemen, but has stood up an international task force to try and keep the Red Sea safe for maritime commerce.

But on Sunday, the destroyer Gravely and Navy helicopters from the Eisenhower shot down three Houthi small boats, after the small boats attacked the helicopters and a merchant vessel in the Red Sea.

“We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement last month. “The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners.”

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the carrier strike group to which Carney is assigned. Carney is assigned to the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated which ships have received combat action ribbons since the Gulf War. The Kearsarge crew received combat action ribbons for action while operating in Aquaba, Jordan, in 2005.