NEWPORT, R. I. – Sixty-one Navy officers graduated from the department head class at Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) April 24 in the first formal graduation ceremony since 2001.
The ceremony recognized the officers’ completion of six months of intensive study in preparation for their prospective duty assignments, reflecting the importance of department heads in meeting operational requirements at sea.
“The duties and responsibilities of the shipboard department head are significant and reflect a great degree of authority,” said Cmdr. Jack Davis, who works for Surface Warfare Officer School Maritime Warfare Training. “The length of the course of study is indicative of the investment the Navy has made in the future readiness of the students and in their importance to the mission of the ship. A significant ceremony is merited to acknowledge these facts and to note each officer’s passage from student to ship’s officer.”
Officers’ graduating from the school are prepared to assume the duties and responsibilities of a department head as well as the significant watch stations they are scheduled to fill, such as the tactical action officer and the engineering officer of the watch. The course of study concentrates on active decision making, operational skills, and departmental leadership and administration.
“Graduates are not simply button pushers at a console,” said Davis. “They are ship’s officers -- ready to command -- who are prepared to lead their departments in the accomplishment of the ship’s mission”
During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Two, presented the Arleigh Burke Award to Lt. Michaela Golding for her strong leadership, industry and perseverance.
Lt. Mario Freeman, who graduated at the top of his class, received the Newport Navy League Award for academic excellence. He also earned the Top Gunner award, which is given to the prospective department head who receives the highest grade point average in the tactical action officer curriculum.
The City of Newport Award was given to Lt. William Rimmer, who demonstrated the highest qualities of professionalism and leadership through his overall contribution to the course.
Lt. Kristopher Olson was selected for the “Top Snipe” award, which is given to the prospective engineering officer who achieves the highest grade point average in the engineering curriculum.
Distinguished graduates included: Lt. Cmdr. Jason Parish, Lt. Michael Good, Lt. John Halttunen, Lt. Aaron Helgerson, Lt. Amber Hopeman, Lt. Kevin Louis, Lt. Russell Meier, Lt. Michael Mortensen, Lt. Ashley Pankop, Lt. Antonio Scinicariello and Lt. Matthew Smidt.