The leaders of a SEAL team and a fast-attack submarine were awarded the Navy’s Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award Friday at a Pentagon ceremony.

Each year’s recipients are nominated by their fellow officers. The award is named after the admiral who was shot down during the Vietnam War and was a prisoner of war for years at the infamous Hanoi Hilton

Cmdr. Eric M. Sager received the award in light of his command aboard the submarine California, which he led on an unplanned surge deployment last year to U.S. European Command.

There, his team was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” and was the Submarine Force’s nomination for the 2016 Fleet Forces Command Battenberg Cup.

Cmdr. Brian M. Drechsler led SEAL Team 5 until earlier this year, and commanded forces last year in the battle to rid Mosul of ISIS.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson lauded the leaders at the ceremony, saying the Navy couldn’t have chosen two better recipients.

“Command is the thing that makes the Navy run,” he said. “It is the coin of the realm.”

He recalled Stockdale’s belief in the philosophy of the stoics, and how there is no good news or bad news. There is just news.

“That’s helped me a lot,” Richardson deadpanned to the crowd.

Sager and Drechsler heaped praise on current colleagues, past commanders and others who had helped them along the way.

“My California team are the true recipients,” Sager said. “I definitely don’t belong in any Google search with Adm. Stockdale.”

As his 4-year-old son wailed inconsolably, Drechsler also praised his team during the retaking of Mosul deployment, and noted that he and Sager were classmates at Annapolis.

He also remembered Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, an explosive ordnance disposalman who was killed by a roadside bomb outside Mosul last year.

“I’ll continue to try and reach the high standards of excellence (Finan) set,” Drechsler said. “I will do my utmost best to meet the standards of this award, as well as the man it’s named after.”

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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