By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
Sailors, like all military personnel, have stood watch hundreds of times, without anything of consequence occurring. One of the most tedious watches in the Navy is standing a quarter deck watch on your ship, when you are on base in your home port. Sailors spend countless hours being told to stay vigilant in case the worst should happen- having to use your weapon to defend yourself, your shipmates, and your ship. For most sailors, the worst never does happen. But when it does, all sailors hope that we will respond as dutifully as Master at Arms Petty Officer Second Class (MA2) Mark Mayo– or pray that our shipmates will.
The USS Mahan (DDG-72) was moored at Pier One, in her homeport of Naval Station Norfolk, VA. For reasons that have not yet been discovered, using methods that have not yet been disclosed to the media, truck driver Jeffrey Savage attempted to illegally board the Mahan.
The quarter deck is the only access point on and off the ship. Watches are posted to ensure that only authorized personnel are given access to the ship. Quarter deck watches typically consists of an Officer of the Deck (E-6 – O2), a Messenger of the Watch (E1- E-4) and an armed Petty Officer of the Watch (E-4 – E-6). Ships also have one or more armed Roving Watches (or Ship’s Rover), patrolling the interior and exterior of the ship. These are not necessarily the watch standers and pay grades that were standing watch on the Mahan, but a general summation. Watches and watch stander eligibilities vary from ship to ship.
Initial reports are that the Mahan’s quarter deck watch standers on duty followed proper protocol. They observed Savage attempting to gain access to the ship, and they challenged him. A struggle ensued and somehow, Savage was able to obtain possession of the Petty Officer of the Watch’s pistol.
MA2 Mayo, who was standing Chief of the Guard, a command and control watch stander who oversees the security of the ship, observed the struggle and made his way to the quarter deck to assist. According to reports, by the time that MA2 Mayo reached the quarter deck, the Petty Officer of the Watch had already been disarmed and she had fallen to the deck. Savage had the gun pointed at her.
Mayo selflessly placed himself between the shooter and the downed petty officer. Jeffery Savage shot MA2 Mayo, killing him. Shortly afterwards, one of the armed roving watch standers shot and killed Savage. There were no other injuries reported.
MA2 Mayo’s sacrifice saved the life of the petty officer, but without knowing what Savage’s intentions and motives were, the number of lives that Petty Officer Mayo and the Mahan’s watch team saved were immeasurable.
No service member signs up to die for their country. You join to serve and succeed for your country, no matter what the cost. MA2 Mayo’s mission was to ensure the safety of his ship and his ship mates. MA2 Mayo successfully completed his mission. But in doing so, he paid the ultimate cost. He died a hero, and will forever be remembered as one.
MA2 Mark Mayo was a native of Hagerstown, MD. His awards include the Good Conduct Award, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Navy Marine Corps Overseas Ribbon.
Fair winds and following seas.