Sailors from the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group have received awards for their recently concluded actions while deployed to the Middle East, where they shot down a barrage of Iran-backed Houthi drones and missiles on a near-daily basis.

The Combat Action Ribbon, or CAR, is awarded to sailors and Marines who actively participated in ground or surface action, and the Navy has rarely given it to sailors since the 1991 Gulf War.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command approved the award for units that “rendered satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in combat engagements that occurred in the Red Sea area” for the Eisenhower and its strike group, according to a Navy official.

The Ike’s carrier strike group also includes destroyers Gravely and Mason, as well as the cruiser Philippine Sea.

The Eisenhower carrier strike group’s deployment combating Houthi rebels is the most kinetic battle the Navy has faced since WWII.

And the lessons of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are making their way to the rest of the fleet, Rear Adm. Marc Miguez, the group’s commander, wrote in the U.S. Naval Institute’s “Proceedings” magazine this month.

“This deployment has been unprecedented in every sense of the word,” Miguez wrote. “Our operations in the Red Sea have included a long list of ‘firsts,’ and while we are still learning and iterating, with every missile and unmanned system we engage and destroy, we are gaining important combat experience that will help inform future conflicts.”

Del Toro first released a message to the fleet announcing that sailors who served in the Red Sea were eligible for the CAR in April, stating that those serving in the Middle East dating back to October could receive the CAR and personal military decorations that include the “V” and “C” devices, for valor and combat, respectively, including the Bronze Star Medal without devices.

The destroyers Carney and Thomas Hudner have also received the CAR since October. Those ships were also deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations, and the Carney became the first confirmed U.S. warship to intercept a series of Houthi missiles and drones in the Red Sea on Oct. 19.

Few crews have received the CAR in recent history. Service members assigned to the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge received the award in 2005 for operations in Jordan. Additionally, sailors aboard the Mason and Nitze, and the amphibious transport docks Ponce and San Antonio received the ribbon in 2017 following attacks from Houthi rebels.

Del Toro also authorized the Air Medal for operations in the Middle East for the “Strike/Flight” designation for participation in sustained aerial operations in the designated airspace.

The Eisenhower originally got underway in October. The Pentagon extended its deployment multiple times before the carrier finally transited the Suez Canal in June as it started its trek home.

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