Surface Warfare Officer School Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Public Affairs Office
NEWPORT, R. I. – The Surface Warfare Officer School’s (SWOS) 50th anniversary will be celebrated by the Navy’s surface warfare community with a year-long commemoration through June 30, 2012.
The first major event of the celebration will be the graduation of the Department Head Class 212 at SWOS in Newport, R.I. July 14.
"We are kicking off this year-long celebration in conjunction with a department head graduation, because that is what the mission of the original destroyer school was about," said Capt. Neil Parrott, Commanding Officer, SWOS. "We'll have one particular observance event once each month this year," he said.
 Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, is the scheduled guest speaker. He will be joined by previous SWOS commanding officers.
In the years after World War II, Adm. Arleigh Burke envisioned the establishment of an officer training continuum "to improve combat readiness and tactical knowledge for junior Naval officers on all ships." Burke’s vision was brought to fruition under the leadership of Vice Adm. Charles Weakley.
The Naval Destroyer School was established on Coasters' Harbor Island on July 1, 1961, and graduated its first class on July 6, 1962. A group of 38 officers, chosen from across the Fleet each with at least 18 months of previous experience on destroyers, began the 6-month curriculum centered on engineering, operations, weapons and executive leadership, and upon graduation, were fully qualified to serve as afloat department heads on destroyers.
A new school house facility, Weakley Hall, was dedicated June 19, 1970. The Destroyer School was subsequently renamed the Surface Warfare Officers School Command in Sept. 1970.
The curriculum of SWOS has expanded over the years to include the training of newly commissioned officers, from officers en route to executive officer and commanding officer assignments. Since the school was established, thousands of Surface Warfare Officers have received training in Newport.
SWOS opened its doors to partner nations in 1972 when International SWOS (ISWOS) was established. Twenty-nine Navy Students from 13 countries participated in Department Head Class 37. Today, three separate ISWOS courses are offered each year.
More recently, in August 2007, the first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Officer of the Deck Course convened. SWOS is the first Navy training site to install a ship-handling simulator for the new Littoral Combat Ship. The commissioning crew from USS Freedom was the first group to take the virtual helm, nearly a year before the ship was delivered to the Navy.
The Arleigh Burke Award was established Dec. 15, 1967. Department Head Class 21 commenced the tradition to recognize the graduate of the department head class who “through his leadership, industry, and perseverance best exemplifies those characteristics typifying the fighting spirit of Burke’s famous ‘Little Beavers’ of Destroyer Squadron 23” Lt. John B. Castano was the first recipient of the award.
A gubernatorial proclamation, signed by Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee on June 16, proclaimed July 1, as Surface Warfare Officers School Day in Rhode Island.
A proclamation from the city of Newport, signed by Mayor Stephen Waluk, declared July 1, 2011, as Surface Warfare Officers School Day.

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