PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) conducted a successful launch of its NATO Sea Sparrow Missile (NSSM) system, with the aid of Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI), Lt. Joshua Mills, Sept. 18.
WTI, pronounced "witty," was established June 2015 as a career path for junior surface warfare officers (SWOs). The billet focuses on a new generation of surface warfare tactical experts who specialize in warfare areas such as amphibious operations, IAMD, or a combination of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surface warfare (SUW).
Depending on the specialized area the officer chooses, the length of training can be from approximately 13-19 weeks, and upon their completion of the course, the officers are classified as WTIs in their particular field.
"WTI officers are SWOs who have gone through graduate-level tactical training and then sent to a production tour to increase the tactical proficiency of weapons systems of the ship and the fleet," said Mills. "We're SWOs who are looking for something more -- who want to teach the latest warfighting tactics, enhance the surface Navy by developing, validating, standardizing and distributing warfare doctrine."
According to Mills, the focus of the first production tour is taking the theories they have learned and putting together a training regiment for the Sailors operating the weapons systems. The WTI also assists watchstanders as they employ the new tactics, analyze the lessons learned, and then refine their doctrine and tactics to streamline the process.
"There were programs that were introduced decades ago, and I'm talking the 1960s," said Mills. "By the time the program and know-how was fully up to speed, the system would be nearly a decade old, and in some cases almost obsolete. With this new program we have been able to introduce a new system, and have it online and fully operational to its full potential in just a few months. Some smaller programs we've managed in weeks."
Since being aboard Bonhomme Richard, Mills has helped Sailors with training and guidance when using the ship NSSM system, Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) system.
"Our primary mission here was to help the crew and give them the support that they needed," said Mills. "We ensured that they properly detected and engaged the drone target. The crew did everything as instructed and by the book, and successfully 'killed' the target."
WTIs are trained at The Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) as a career path designed to increase tactical skills at the individual, unit and integrated levels. SMWDC is modeled after the success of the TOP GUN program at the Naval Aviation Warfare Development Center in Fallon, Nevada.
"Under this new guidance, we've seen an amazing increase in the change of tactics used all across the Navy," said Mills. "We've had incredible success on each platform we've visited and guided."
Eventually, 20 percent of SWOs will become WTIs after their second division officer tour. Additionally, 10 percent of WTIs will come from the limited duty officer (LDO) program.
SMWDC was formally established June 2015 at Naval Base San Diego with detachments in Dahlgren and Little Creek, Virginia, and two in San Diego. Led by Rear Adm. John Wade, SMWDC is responsible for increasing the tactical readiness of individual surface warfare communities through the creation of warfare doctrine, underway assessment exercises and WTIs.
Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The Bonhomme Richard ESG consists of Bonhomme Richard, amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).