Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Bill Gortney, received the Gray Eagle award in honor of being the most senior naval aviator on active duty during a ceremony aboard nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (TR) (CVN 71), Oct. 18.
The award presentation was held in conjunction with the Navy’s 239th Birthday celebration aboard the ship.
The Gray Eagle award is a metallic trophy that resembles a gray eagle landing on the deck of the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV 1). Retired Vice Adm. James Zortman, sector vice president for Global Logistics and Operational Support at Northrop Grumman, presented the award to Gortney. The former Gray Eagle award holder was Gen. James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, who held the award from July 17, 2008 until Oct. 17.
During his speech at the award ceremony, Gortney said:
This award is symbolic of the historical significance of naval aviation as we pass excellence from one generation to another.
I would like you all to give a round of applause to the future of naval aviation, many of whom you see right here aboard Theodore Roosevelt, and to the young student naval aviators and naval flight officers that will continue to bear the ‘true torch of excellence’ of naval aviation.
Gortney said being awarded the Gray Eagle was significant because he could share it with the Gray Owl awardee, which is presented to the most senior naval flight officer serving on active duty.
According to Zortman, the Gray Eagle award is a culmination of Gortney’s 38 years of military service, having garnered more than 5,360 mishap-free flight hours, 1,265 carrier-arrested landings, and leading at various levels of naval aviation and throughout the Navy.
The Gray Eagle Trophy
The Gray Eagle Trophy made its first appearance in 1961 during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Naval Aviation. Two years prior, while serving as commander in chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe, Adm. Charles R. Brown wrote to the then Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), Vice Adm. Robert B. Pirie, that a baton or similar token be awarded to the senior aviator in the point of service in flying, and be handed down from one person to the next in the passing years.
In 1960, Chance Vought Aircraft, Inc., now Northrop Grumman Corporation, proposed the trophy design with the inscription:
In recognition of a clear eye, a stout heart, a steady hand, and a daring defiance of gravity and the law of averages.
The name of each recipient and the dates of the title the award was held are also engraved on the trophy.
The senior Navy or Marine Corps aviator maintains the title of ‘Gray Eagle’ until the member retires and a new recipient is named from the official precedence list of prospective Gray Eagles, maintained by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Press release, Image: US Navy