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Ship That Repelled Yemen Missile Attack Named Best in Atlantic Fleet

A Navy destroyer that fired three missiles in defense of itself and other U.S. ships when it came under attack last fall has been honored with one of the service's most prestigious awards.

This week, the USS Mason was presented with the 2016 Battenberg Cup, an honor recognizing the most exemplary ship in the Navy's Atlantic Fleet.

The Mason, which was commissioned in 2003 and is homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, is just the 5th destroyer in 11 years to receive the honor, according to Navy officials. The last time a destroyer received the Battenberg Cup was 2009, when the USS Carney was recognized.

The crew of the Mason, forward-deployed for the latter half of 2016, conducted an "extraordinary" amount of operations during that time period, officials said in a release.

The ship logged roughly 64,000 miles in transits from the Atlantic to the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

Its attached MH-60R helicopter squadron, the "Swamp Foxes" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74, completed 348 sorties and logged nearly 1,000 flight hours, flying almost daily.

The ship also participated in the Navy's "Great Green Fleet" initiative, accepting more than 14,000 gallons of biofuel from the Italian Navy oiler ITS Etna during a showcase event.

But the ship would prove its mettle most significantly in October 2016, when two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemeni territory held by Shiite Houthi rebels.

Acting fast, the Mason's crew deployed two Standard Missile-2 defensive interceptors from its position in the Red Sea. It also launched a RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a Nulka missile decoy.

In the release, officials said it was the first time in Navy history that the Evolved Sea Sparrow had been deployed when a ship was under attack.

The Navy would exact retribution shortly thereafter, firing Tomahawk missiles from the destroyer Nitze and destroying three radar sites where the missiles fired at Navy ships were believed to have originated.

The Mason's quick actions during the initial attack protected some 1,000 sailors on warships in the region and "countless" civilian mariners aboard merchant vessels in the region, officials said. And lessons learned from the event are still being used to inform Navy training and readiness, they added.

"I could not be more proud of Mason sailors," Cmdr. Stephen Aldridge, the ship's commanding officer, said in a statement. "It was truly a team effort from our inspection and survey in January, all the way through a tremendously successful deployment, which concluded in December."

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