Navy

Trump Calls Destroyer Commanders to Thank Them for Syria Strikes

The commanders of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Ross and Porter received personal calls from the president Sunday, days after the two ships fired a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles into western Syria from their position in the Mediterranean.

According to a Navy announcement, President Donald Trump thanked Cmdrs. Russell Caldwell and Andria Slough, commanding officers of the Ross and Porter respectively, during two separate telephone calls.

Released White House imagery reveals the calls were made aboard Air Force One, during Trump's trip from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to the White House. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster sat beside him as he made the call.

A transcript of the call has not been released, but Trump's tone since the missile strike has been celebratory.

"Congratulations to our great military men and women for representing the United States and the world, so well in the Syria attack," he Tweeted from his personal account April 8, the day after the late-night assault.

According to the Navy release, Trump thanked Caldwell, Slough and their crews for their "professionalism and quick response to the tasking."

The strike on Syria's Shayrat airfield came in the wake of an April 4 chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime on a rebel-held area in the country that left dozens dead, including women and children. Defense Department officials said all 59 missiles hit their target and called the strike a deterrent designed to prevent future chemical attacks.

"The success of this mission hinged upon our sailors' excellent training, technical knowledge and dedication to their work," Caldwell, the commander of the Ross, said in a statement. "It was a distinct honor to hear firsthand from our commander in chief that these operations had a direct impact in support of his national objectives."

Caldwell assumed command of the Ross in November 2015 and is set to turn over command of the ship on Tuesday during a port visit to Larnaca, Cyprus.

Slough, who took command of the Porter in late January, said Trump praised her crew's performance in the call.

"In general, the president was impressed with Porter's precision and lethality," she said in a statement. "It was obvious he was extremely pleased with our performance and is glad we're out here patrolling in U.S. 6th Fleet."

The Ross and Porter are both homeported in Rota, Spain, and are expected to maintain their presence in in the Mediterranean following the strikes, officials have said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

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