Warfighters are just starting to get the tools to carry out the Distributed Lethality concept, and we have taken significant steps to retain top talent in the Surface Warfare officer (SWO) community. However, the Strategy is a call for our community
to ensure the tactics and training also continue to follow closely.
The various Warfare Development Centers are pushing to introduce and refine new tactics to improve our Fleet’s warfighting capability. To take advantage of the work being done by the centers, it is crucial we leverage the current Basic and Advanced
Training Phases to transform into a more effective fighting force. The priority on training must be the primary driving force to meet the intent of our Surface Force leadership and ensure the Strategy works in concert with lines of effort laid
out in the CNO’s “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority” – warfighting, learning faster and strengthening our Navy team.
With the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) fully stood up, the tactics will be ready and accessible to our combat teams. The Strategy requires that we continue to press for more
intense training and the application of those tactics under stressful and complicated warfighting scenarios. The introduction of SMWDC’s Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) into the training cycle is an important step in achieving those goals.
Understandably, the 36-month timeframe of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan is based on global security requirements and current Fleet size so the duration cannot easily be altered. However, the correct level of attention on tactical training events
and the planning, briefing, execution and debriefing process is a variable in our control and it cannot be stressed enough.
All too often, a ship may move through the training cycle where the goal is not technical system mastery, effective drills, or procedural understanding, but rather a mindset to just get through the event. This basic approach may allow us to meet minimum
standards to attain readiness for major combat operations, but the Strategy calls on us to take training a step further if we are going to deter and deny aggressors in a complicated, denied warfighting environment. Winning teams are never content
on just getting by with the minimum standard. Instead, they seek excellence in every facet of the game.
What the Strategy should mean to warfighters is that we can only win with true tactical excellence despite our adversaries continually advancing at a rapid pace. The warfighting and combat capability of a unit and strike group may be realized to some
degree during an integrated phase of training. However these advanced events only provide opportunities to near-term deployers, with little time to refine skills.
Ship’s not only need to take part in SWATT, but they also must take it upon themselves to make realistic and more frequent tactical training a priority regardless of what phase of training they are in. The SWO Boss can provide the tactics, help
to retain the talent, and provide the tools, but it’s on the ships to take a hard look at how effectively they are training within their own unit’s to bring it all together.
It may be too drastic to say that our force has gotten soft over the past twenty years of relatively unchecked operations throughout the world, but it is fair to say that a complete generation of SWOs and Sailors has advanced without the need to worry
about truly opposed naval operations. The desired end-state explained in the Strategy is likely not a surprise to any SWO or Sailor: “to achieve and sustain sea control at the time and place of our choosing to protect the homeland from afar,
build and maintain global security, project the nation power of the United States, and win decisively.” We’ve embraced the spirit of this objective for quite some time, but our Navy has not been challenged in decades.
The Strategy ought to serve as a necessary reminder and call to action for our community to make sure we are ready, for the possibility of peril exists as we face technologically advanced adversaries who are fielding new weapons at a rapid pace. The
Strategy provides us with clear objectives and an avenue to achieve success. Now it’s on us to put warfighting first and be ready on arrival.