NEWPORT, R.I. - The Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) minted its newest edition of surface leaders as Department Head Class 218 graduated in the Admiral Michael G. Mullen Auditorium Sept. 20.
The class, consisting of 34 Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs), completed the 27-week course designed to prepare officers for duty as engineering, combat systems, operations, or first lieutenant department heads on all classes of ships.
The course is divided into two major subdivisions - Tactical Action Officer (TAO), which focuses on areas such as undersea warfare, air defense, and surface warfare, and Operations, Readiness, Training, and Engineering (ORTE), which explores the specifics of each student's prospective assignments.
"The duties and responsibilities of the shipboard department head are significant and reflect a great degree of authority," said Capt. Richard A. Brown, SWOS commanding officer. "The length of the course 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 graduation ceremony is merited to acknowledge these facts and to note each officer's passage from student to ship's officer."
The guest of honor for the ceremony, Rear Adm. Ann C. Phillips, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2, thanked the family and friends of the graduates for witnessing this major achievement in their careers. After congratulating the graduates on a job well done, Phillips reminded them of the importance of the demanding roles they were about to undertake and how they will be relied upon as leaders on their ships and must be ready to step up.
"You are now fully trained surface warriors," said Phillips. "You as a department head will have the greatest influence on the operation and success of your ship. Everyone in your chain of command below and above you will be counting on you; make sure you are up to the task. The journey you are about to embark on will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your naval career. Make the most of it; go out there, take charge, and be successful."
Lt. Sophia M. Haberman, prospective weapons officer for USS Cape St. George (CG 71) received the Arleigh Burke Award for the graduate recognized by classmates as the individual possessing the strongest leadership, industry and perseverance; best exemplifying the fighting spirit of Admiral Burke's famous squadron, the 'Little Beavers' - Destroyer Squadron 23.
"It is a great honor to be recognized by my shipmates for this award," said Haberman. "Many officers who received this award have gone on to very successful careers. I hope I can live up to that tradition and the expectations of my fellow classmates."
Lt. Jamie L. Decoster, prospective operations for USS Truxtun (DDG 103) received the City of Newport Award for demonstrating the highest qualities of professionalism and leadership, as reflected by her overall contributions to Class 218.
Other awardees honored during the graduation ceremony were Lt. Adam P. Walters, prospective chief engineer for USS Milius (DDG 69); Lt. Kevin K. McClellan prospective weapons officer for USS McCampbell (DDG 85); and Lt. Thomas F. Yale, prospective engineering officer for USS Vandegrift (FFG 48). Walters received the Newport Navy League Award for academic excellence as the top graduate for department head class 218. McClellan received the Top Gunner award, given to the prospective department head with the highest grade point average in the tactical action officer curriculum. Yale was selected for the Top Snipe award, given to the prospective engineering officer with the highest grade point average in the engineering curriculum.
The graduates will report to their next assignments aboard ships around the world in the coming months.
After 50 years, the Department Head course remains the flagship course at SWOS. Approximately 275 students attend the course each year.
SWOS is headquartered in Newport, R.I. and oversees 9 learning sites, which provide more than 1,000 courses a year to more than 67,000 Sailors. SWOS uses a mix of blended-learning techniques comprised of instructor-led classes, hands-on labs, simulation and computer-based training. Courses include specialized training supporting all enlisted engineering ratings, and Surface Warfare Officers at every level. Building maritime partnerships, the command also provides training to many international students.