A new group of tactical gators splash back into the fleet with their graduation from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Centers (SMWDC). The young command graduated its second cohort of 11 amphibious warfare tactics instructors (WTI) from its Amphibious Warfare Division (AMW) at Joint Base Little Creek – Fort Myer, Oct. 14.
Akin to the storied Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOP GUN) for the Navy’s best aviators, SMWDC is charged with increasing the tactical proficiency of the surface fleet by training an elite cadre of surface warfare officers (SWO) who will become WTIs – the best of the best in tactics. WTIs come from three surface warfare communities: amphibious warfare, anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare, or integrated air and missile defense. They’re easily indefinable in the fleet by the red and black patches on their uniform – which they receive upon finishing from one of three WTI programs.
“Wear your patches proudly, you earned it. Be the expert, be humble and be approachable and willing to help your ships and Sailors,” said Rear Adm. John Wade, the guest speaker and commander of SMWDC. “I caution you not to be arrogant; remember as a WTI, it is not how good you are, it’s how good you make others– at the individual, unit and amphibious ready group and strike group levels.”
New graduates agreed.
“The WTI patch is not merely a symbol of presumed expertise; it is, in a sense, a contract that binds the wearer to a higher standard of tactical and doctrinal coherence, said Lt. Takeru Tajiri one of two honor graduates. “If I am to take any measure of pride in earning this distinction, it must be balanced against the paradoxical responsibility I bear to raise the fleet to this same standard, while yet ensuring that I exceed it.
WTIs (pronounced as “witty”) are expected as junior officers to act as tactical force multipliers for their ships, staffs and squadrons by systematically institutionalizing a warfighting standard in support of maintaining maritime superiority.
The AMW WTI curriculum is geared toward naval power projection. This intensive course is taught for three months at a graduate-level covering multiple aspects of gator warfare: doctrine, joint maritime tactics, concept integration, capabilities and planning, and fleet immersions where lessons are punctuated with future WTIs integrating with Marines at Camp Lejeune and Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
“The road for all us new WTI's has just begun; we’re bridging the gap of knowledge that has grown between the Sailors and Marines for decades due to new immerging technologies and updated strategies,” said Lt. Brittany Hubbard, who graduated top of her class. “We will make a difference in every aspect of amphibious warfare. We're going out to the ships. We are planning [missions] with our Marine counterparts. Every tactical memorandum, tactics, techniques and procedures, and communication plan is reviewed thoroughly to ensure that our amphibious force is proficient and prepared to complete the mission if called upon.”
SMWDC has now graduated 20 AMW WTIs and a total of 96 WTIs across all three WTI surface warfare areas. According Capt. Brian Finman, director of SMWDC’s AMW Division, this latest WTI cohort “graduated its first student from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).” Lt. Cmdr. Chris Emonson became SMWDC’s first foreign-allied WTI, an effort brokered by Navy leadership to expand international partnerships.
Alongside Emonson, Hubbard and Tajiri were eight other new gator grads: lieutenants Christopher Browett, Diana Spivey, Sequoia Watson, George Gagnon, Kaila Julia, Philip Wise, Courtney Banske and Latoya Phillips.
“The amphibious WTI program has grown from an idea into a reality, said Finman. SMWDC formally opened June 9, 2015, and by May 26, 2016, we graduated the pilot class amphibious WTI class.”
The three WTI classes convene twice a year in San Diego, Dahlgren, Virginia and Little Creek Virginia – depending on the area of discipline. SMWDC’s target is to graduate 110 WTIs annually with one WTI on each surface ship, simultaneously operating as conventional department head (e.g., Navigator or Operations Officer) and the tactical subject matter expert.
When asked why he applied for the WTI program, Tajiri simply said, “I joined the Navy because I wanted to fight. Such an opportunity as this was therefore not to be missed. Doctrine is akin to combat discipline, and discipline is the essential element to victory. As a WTI, I will ensure that the fleet not only ceases to disdain doctrine, but masters it.
SMWDC’s next WTI classes commence in January and July 2017. Email SWO_WTI@navy.mil to apply or learn more.