YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) - The secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) congratulated USS Blue Ridge's (LCC 19) food service division in a message Jan. 27.

SECNAV Ray Mabus recognized the division for earning the 2011 Capt. Edward F. Ney Award for large afloat ships outstanding food service in the Pacific Fleet.

Blue Ridge Commanding Officer Capt. Rudy Lupton announced the accomplishment to the crew during an all hands call shortly after receiving the message, expressing his gratitude for their commitment to service.

"To compete for, and win a second consecutive Ney award, just weeks after completing a very demanding DSRA, speaks to the professionalism I see every day from the Sailors aboard the command ship," said Lupton. "These Sailors and their leadership have set a new standard of service and excellence while making a significant contribution to the combat readiness of the ship."

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Leah Josefina Bongbonga was vital in the records management that helped earn the award.

"We were barely open a week before the inspection, so we had a lot of catching up to do," said Bongbonga. "But in the end, it all paid off."

The Capt. Edward F. Ney Memorial Award program is co-sponsored by the secretary of the Navy and the International Food Service Executives Association. The awards encourage excellence in Navy food service programs, with the objective of improving quality of life for Navy personnel.

"They have worked very hard during the 2011 Ney competition and deserve the recognition of the most prestigious food service award in the Navy," said Roxanne Hauman, Ney Award program manager. "They all did a wonderful job and are to be commended."

This award marks Blue Ridge's fourth Ney victory in the ship's history, and the second consecutive recognition.

First-place winners, runners-up and honorable mention commands will be recognized during a ceremony during the Joint Military and International Food Service Executives Association conference April 2, in Schaumburg, Ill., marking the 53rd anniversary of the program.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force.

Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

For more news from USS Blue Ridge, visit www.navy.mil/local/lcc19/.