Amphibious Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI)
​160526-N-MV682-069 VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (May 26, 2016) Lt. Cmdr. Dirk Sonnenberg, a graduate of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center’s (SMWDC) Amphibious Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) course and winner of the course’s Iwo Jima Leadership Award, showcases the patch he and his classmates received upon graduating from the 14-week course. SMWDC is increasing the tactical proficiency of the surface warfare community by selecting elite surface warfare officers to become specialized warfighters called Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jamie V. Cosby/Released)
Amphibious Warfare Experts Graduate TOPSWO
Story by Lt. j.g. Jessica Kellogg, SURFLANT Public Affairs

Ask any of the Navy’s first nine officers to become Amphibious Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) what led them to this milestone, and they will say “passion.” Passion about amphibious warfare; a passion to innovate; a passion to have a positive impact on the future of the Navy.

On May 26, nine officers, including two lieutenant commanders, five lieutenants, and two lieutenant junior grades, marked an important milestone as they graduated in the inaugural class in the third of three WTI schools. These schools, which were started by Rear Admiral Jim Kilby, commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), aim to address concerns that naval war fighting was becoming a lost skill. Much like the TOPGUN school in the aviation community, this TOPSWO school has made it possible to bring a new level of expertise and skill to the surface warfare community.

Among the graduates was Lieutenant Junior Grade Brianna Frazier. She initially applied to the program because she was excited by the prospect of being on the forefront of something new. Additionally, she was drawn to the opportunity to specialize in one specific area, something which, until now, was uncommon amongst surface warfare officers (SWO).

“It’s a unique opportunity to be considered an expert so early in your career,” said Frazier. “It really makes you stand out.”

Fraizer, who enlisted in the Navy in 2005 as an Aerographer's Mate, commissioned through the Seaman to Admiral (STA-21) program before serving on USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and with Expeditionary Strike Group Two. As a WTI she will be assigned to SMWDC.

By providing concentrated training in one of three areas, amphibious warfare (AMW), integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), or anti-submarine and surface warfare (ASW/SuW), the Navy is growing a cadre of junior officers who are recognized as experts within their specialty. SMWDC hopes to graduate 110 WTIs a year — 40 IAMD, 40 ASW/SuW and 30 AMW to support a goal of placing a WTI on every ship and at every command. This effort is to help the Navy sustain maritime supremacy and high-velocity learning.

Rear Admiral Hugh D. Wetherald, deputy director for resources and acquisition, J8, Joint Staff, the guest speaker at the historic graduation, emphasized the importance of AMW in the modern Navy, explaining that Navy requires a dynamic force to succeed in today’s ever-changing world.

“In the expeditionary Navy we are very good at putting our Marines on the beach,” said Wetherald. “But we have to get there; we are going to fight our way to shore and defend our position there. We will go to sea, and fight, and win.”

Much like the TOPGUN graduates, the TOPSWO WTIs are easily recognized by a unique red and black patch worn on their uniforms.

“From now on people won’t be looking at your collar device,” said Wetherald. “They’ll be looking at your patch, so go prove what that patch means. They will be in awe of your expertise. As the leaders of our community, you will take our Navy to levels we have not seen. Inspire your sailors, your staff, and your commanding officers. You are our future.”

Because of the complexities unique to the AMW community, Kilby cautioned that as the most complex of the three WTI warfare areas, it may have ongoing challenges over time to maintain the level of knowledge and innovation seen in this first graduating AMW WTI class.

“What does the right approach look like down the road?” Kilby asked the graduates. “We got it right the first time with this class, however, we will rely on you to help improve future WTI classes; this approach will ensure we continue to increase the tactical proficiency of the surface warfare community.”

“I am so excited to be part of the best program in the Navy,” said Lt. Tyler Rasmussen. “It’s a rare opportunity to truly shape the future of the amphibious community as a junior officer.”

Rasmussen enlisted in the Navy in 1998 as an Aviation Electrician's Mate. After commissioning through STA-21, he completed tours on the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), and USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). As a new patch wearer, he now will serve as a WTI at SMWDC.

As the WTI program grows, SMWDC will continue to recruit top-performing SWOs to build a culture of ‘tactical excellence by design’ in the surface fleet. Junior officers interested in becoming a WTI are encouraged to contact or 619-556-5699.

“If you are incredibly passionate and innovative, this is a great opportunity to become a warrior, thinker and teacher,” said Rasmussen. “This is an exciting time to be a SWO.”

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