The United States Navy has recognised the Royal Australian Navy’s Lieutenant Justin Mellross for his work in support of the counter-narcotics’ operation Unified Takedown in the Middle East. 

Commanding Officer USS Firebolt Lieutenant Commander Raymond Miller IV on December 21 presented Lieutenant Mellross the United States Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Lieutenant Mellross is deployed on the ADF’s Operation Manitou within the New Zealand Defence Force-led Combined Task Force 150 (CTF150). Unified Takedown is the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet’s contribution to the CTF150 counter-narcotics and terrorism operation in the Middle East.

Lieutenant Mellross was embarked in USS Firebolt as the primary liaison officer for CTF150 during pre-mission training and the execution of missions in support of the CTF150’s Operation Mahi Tahi and Unified Takedown.

The US medal may be awarded on behalf of the United States Secretary of the Navy to members of armed forces at the rank lieutenant commander and below for meritorious service or achievement in either combat or non-combat roles.

Because of COVID-19, Lieutenant Mellross was awarded the medal in an intimate setting among his CTF150 Headquarters’ teammates.

In reading the citation to the gathering, Lieutenant Commander Miller praised Lieutenant Mellross.

“His efforts during Unified Takedown and assistance to US Ships Firebolt, Sirocco and Hurricane in the first United States Navy-led counter-narcotics operation in over two years within the Fifth Fleet area of operations streamlined the process for six search and seizure boardings, with one particular seizure of narcotics being the second largest of the year, worth US$14.66 million,” Lieutenant Commander Miller said.

“He ensured that the three teams involved in the first rotation of Unified Takedown were able to, and future teams will continue to, be able to operate effectively within multinational regulations at full capacity.

“Mellross’ exceptional professionalism, unrelenting perseverance and loyal devotion to duty reflect credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States naval service.”

Lieutenant Mellross said he would draw on the experience of the deployment and serving alongside US personnel, and the award, throughout his career.

“It has been an honour and privilege to represent CTF150 and the ADF while serving within Firebolt and alongside the crews of Sirocco and Hurricane,” Lieutenant Mellross said.

“The teams should be very proud of what we achieved while working together.

“Through dedicated hard work and combined training, we were able to effectively deploy three patrol craft into a domain historically dominated by larger warships, with greater support mechanisms, multiple boarding parties, and air capabilities.

“This was a massive team effort by the personnel and crews of CTF150, Firebolt, Sirocco and Hurricane

“It is tremendously humbling to receive individual recognition for something that I consider to be a team achievement. 

“Nothing that we did during the operation could have been completed by an individual, and I feel very honoured to be awarded this achievement medal for my part in our team’s success.”

Commander CTF150 Captain Brendon Clark, of the Royal New Zealand Navy, also commended Lieutenant Mellross.

“Through absolute dedication and commitment to service, including nearly three weeks’ underway, Lieutenant Mellross built a strong and enduring relationship with units from TF55,” Captain Clark said.

“In doing so, he enhanced the operational effectiveness of USS Firebolt and her two consorts, enabling them to be truly ready for the CTF150 mission.”