SURFPAC Surface Warfare Officer of the Year

SWOEvery day that Lt. Cmdr. Katie Jacobson went to work aboard USS Preble (DDG 88), she had a smile on her face. Whatever challenge might be present itself in the course of the day, that was just part of being a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO).

“That’s one of the many things that I

think makes being a SWO fun, being challenged to solve complex problems that really matter,” said Jacobson. “And every day that I stepped aboard Preble, I could feel the energy. You just know something is extraordinary about that ship and about that crew.”

And it’s to that crew and work environment that Jacobson credits her selection as the Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet's 2015 Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) of the Year.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP), announced Lt. Cmdr. Katie Jacobson as the winner July 14.

“I am impressed by everyone who was nominated by their command for this award and all are to be commended as true warfighting professionals,” said Rowden. “To be named SWO of the Year shows a superior level of performance within our community.”

Individual Award, Team Effort

Created in 2009, the award recognizes the SWO who best personifies the ideals of the surface warrior ethos through excellence in warfighting, leadership, and mission accomplishment.

The commanding officer of the ship submits a nomination to the destroyer squadron (DESRON), and then each DESRON selects their nominee to send to CNSP. The finalists are determined, and each has to take a lengthy exam covering broad portions of surface warfare knowledge.


 Personnel Readiness


 Combat Readiness


 Material Readiness


 Heritage & Recognition




Ten officers from across the Pacific Fleet Surface Force were nominated for the award. To compete for the award, they were required to demonstrate their knowledge on a variety of topics, including tactics, engineering, and navigation.

I had stellar leadership, peers and colleagues; and the crew, they were supportive," said Jacobsen. "It not only bolstered my individual success, but the success of the team. So being the SWO of the year, it s an individual recognition, but I couldn t have done it without the Preble crew.

Jacobson also thanked the staff of Destroyer Squadron 23, and the others who were nominated for the award.

I would like to congratulate my peers who were nominated for this distinction, she said. I m very honored to serve alongside them in what I consider to be the world s finest Navy.

She said that not only are there years of training and learning at a command that have accumulated, but that she was also the direct beneficiary of that collective knowledge.

Surface warfare is really a team sport, she said. It s about passion for the profession. Everyone contributes to the success of the group or to an individual.

Taking Control of Change

Her drive to constantly find ways to improve the command was noted by Cmdr. John Bowman, commanding officer of Preble, who was executive officer during the time Jacobson was aboard.

She was an innovator, looking for problems and finding solutions, he said. It s no surprise to me that [Jacobson] was selected as the SWO of the Year.

Jacobson served as the weapons officer and combat systems officer on board Preble from May 2012 to June 2015, deploying twice in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

She said that sometimes great improvements can be made by small, easily achievable changes, by taking charge of factors you have control over to balance the ones you don t.

Life on a ship is inherently dangerous, but we can mitigate those risks by changing the things that we can shape, said Jacobson. How much sleep a person receives the night before a major evolution, that s something we can affect and those are things that have to be looked at and should be looked at to see if things make sense and if they don t -- well, then we change them.

The first major change she was a part of on Preble was switching to shorter watches, with more time off.

That allowed for our crew to get in the normal circadian rhythm, said Jacobson. At least it allowed for the opportunity to do so with static watches. It went over very well with the crew.

Jacobson says that these kinds of small changes in conditions made a huge impact on morale and unit cohesion.

Sleep is paramount to being a good Sailor, a good decision maker, and a good warrior, she said.

Jacobson joined the Navy in 2004 after graduating from the Tulane University Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps program in New Orleans, and holds a Master of Science in Operations Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School. She is currently assigned to the Federal Executive Fellowship Program at Research and Development Corporation in Washington, D.C.

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