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The Gray Owl Award is presented to the naval flight officer (NFO) on continuous active duty in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps who has held that designation for the longest period of time.[1]

A naval flight officer in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps is distinct from a naval aviator in that the aviator pilots the aircraft, while an NFO provides knowledge and expertise to assist piloting, such as in navigation, airborne weapons, aerodynamics, flight planning and safety.[2]

By virtue of being qualified for the Gray Owl Trophy, which by definition represents long years of dedicated service to the Navy or Marine Corps, the recipient is considered “a symbol of stalwart and intrepid professionalism.”[1]

Similar awards include the Gray Eagle Award, presented to the Naval Aviator on continuous active duty in the U.S Navy or Marine Corps who has held that designation for the longest period of time;[3] the Ancient Albatross Award, an identical honor for United States Coast Guard aviators; and the Old Salt Award, presented to the surface warfare officer serving on continuous active duty with the earliest surface warfare officer qualification.[4]

History[edit | edit source]

Grumman Aerospace Corporation (now the Northrop Grumman Corp.) awarded the first Gray Owl Trophy to U.S. Navy Captain George N. LaRoque in June 1979.

The Original Idea[edit | edit source]

The award traces its origins to 1978, when U.S. Navy Captain Kenn Haas decided that there should be an award for the NFO community that equaled the Gray Eagle Trophy. Haas asked Grumman Aerospace Corporation to sponsor the award, the proposal was accepted and the first formal presentation of the Gray Owl was held the next year.[5] Haas later became the third recipient of the Gray Owl in 1983.

The Trophy[edit | edit source]

A Gray Owl Award.

The trophy takes the form of a sculpture of an owl mounted atop a mahogany base. Each recipient’s name plus the date and duration of their time holding the Gray Owl are engraved on the trophy.[1]

The Gray Owl Trophy may be kept in possession of and displayed by the command to which the Gray Owl is assigned. Otherwise, it may be placed in the custody of the National Museum of Naval Aviation on a temporary basis until required for presentation to the successor.[1]

When the incumbent retires or dies, the award is passed from the previous holder to the next earliest designated NFO on active duty. The ceremony should be conducted as near as practicable to the official date of succession with both principals present, unless physically impossible. “…Presentation ceremonies, while perhaps light, should be nonetheless dignified.”[1]

Eligibility[edit | edit source]

Eligibility for the Gray Owl Trophy Award is determined by the official active-duty precedence list for NFOs, on continuous service, not recalled, who has held that designation for the longest period of time. The date of designation as an NFO is the governing factor for determining who will receive the award from the list of active duty officers. In the event two or more NFOs on active duty have been designated on the same date, the senior one qualifies as the Gray Owl.[1]

Recipients[edit | edit source]

ADM Harris accepts the Gray Owl Award from Northrop Grumman executive and retired U.S. Navy Captain Brick Nelson, 13 November 2015.

The current “Gray Owl” is Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM).[6] He also carries the distinction of being the Navy’s current “Old Goat,” the longest serving U.S. Naval Academy graduate still on active duty. Harris graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1978. He took command of USPACOM on 27 May 2015, and was presented with the Gray Owl on 13 November 2015.[6][7]

Name Rank (Upon Receipt) Dates as Gray Owl
George N. LaRoque CAPT 1979-1982
R.L. Rhodes CAPT 1982-1983
Kenn Haas CAPT 1983-1984
Thomas J. Johnson Jr. COMO 1984-1990
Richard M. Dunleavy VADM 1990-1992
Stephen E. Loftus VADM 1992-1994
Jon S. Coleman RADM 1994-1997
Herbert Browne VADM 1997-2000
Joseph S. Mobley VADM 2000-2001
William J. Fallon ADM 2001-2008
James D. Kelly RADM 2008-2009
Gerald R. Beaman VADM 2009-2013
Allen G. Myers VADM 2013-2014
David H. Buss VADM 2014-2015
Harry B. Harris Jr. ADM 2015–Present

References[edit | edit source]

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