USS America Officers Train With Navy's 'Top Gun'
150728-N-VR008-011 SAN DIEGO (July 28, 2015) Cmdr. Henry ‘Hank’ Kim, assigned to Naval Surface and Mine War Fighting Development Center, explains the process to become a warfare tactical instructor to officers aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kyle Goldberg/Released)
USS America Officers Train With Surface Navy's 'Top Gun'
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Officers from the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) received training from Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), July 28.

The hour-long training focused on the new generation of surface warfare tactical experts known as warfare tactics instructors (WTIs).

SMWDC stood up on June 9 in an effort to develop junior surface warfare officers (SWOs) with enhanced skillsets critical for today's fleet. Surface WTIs will specialize in warfare areas such as amphibious operations, integrated air and missile defense, or a combination of anti-submarine and surface warfare.

Cmdr. Henry Kim, SMWDC's gap and requirement analysis officer, explained that, although the WTI program is new to the surface Navy, the WTI concept has been prevalent in the aviation Navy for quite some time.

"For years, tactically-hungry young junior officers were hand-selected to hone their skills to become lethal aviation warfighters," he added. "What SMWDC has done is take many of the processes from our aviation colleagues to make our own 'SWO Top Gun'. However, the big difference between them is that pilots have platforms and model series experts, while surface WTIs will specialize in warfare areas."

Kim explained that coming to one of the newest and most advanced warships in the fleet to provide training is important because it gives SMWDC a chance to share their command vision and goals, and also recruit future WTIs for the fleet.

"As with anything new, there are questions and apprehensions, as well as excitement," he said. "I think the best way to recruit and dispel any myths is to go out to ships and engage the wardrooms one-on-one. Much like professional sports teams who scout for talent, we're going where the best players are, and for us [SMWDC], that's the ships and wardrooms. The WTI program is opened to all surface officers, proving that this is an awesome time to be a SWO!"

America's Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Baze echoed Kim's enthusiasm by stating, during the training, that WTIs will help the fleet maintain a standard of tactical proficiency, professionalism and teamwork.

"America completely supports the efforts of SMWDC and WTI recruitment because this command's mission trains surface officers to not just be good at their jobs, but great," said Baze. "By developing warfare area experts for the fleet, we allow young SWOs to feel valued and understand what it means to be a warfighter and team player. This standardization is essential and I know I look forward to having a WTI in the America wardroom one day."

Lt. Damon Goodrich-Houska, a WTI assigned to SMWDC, briefly discussed how WTIs will provide consistency for shipboard mission areas.

"A challenge that many ships are facing, for example, is that they train a watch team under one or two very proficient tactical action officers," the lieutenant said. "When these officers depart the ship, their knowledge and skillsets go with them, leaving the ship sometimes in a scramble to train other officers to do the job in a short amount of time. WTIs would allow for consistent training and less of an impact during high-turnover times on warships."

Kim emphasized that warfighting discussions need to be encouraged in wardrooms, no matter what operational phase a ship is in. America is currently undergoing a maintenance phase known as post-shakedown availability, scheduled to last until early 2016.

Despite the ship's current maintenance cycle, officers, like Ensign Andrea Lee, America's main propulsion officer, continue to train and prepare themselves as warfighters.

"The training today allowed me to gain a broader understanding of future career opportunities as a SWO," said Lee. "As a SWO, I want to make sure that I am an effective warfighter. I am excited that SMWDC is established and look forward to seeing how WTIs will enhance operations in the fleet."

For more information on SMWDC, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/nsmwdc or email SWO_WTI @navy.mil.
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