Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training
SMWDC, John C. Stennis Strike Group Team up for Tactical Readiness

Pacific Ocean-- (NNS) – Twelve staff members of the forthcoming Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) closed their San Diego office April 24-May 1 to get underway with the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCS CSG) for the command’s maiden exercise. A pilot event, SMWDC held the first ever Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) event aimed at improving warfighting proficiency within the Surface Forces.

SMWDC teamed-up with JCS CSG along with Destroyer Squadron 21 (DESRON 21) during a multi-ship Group Sail (GRUSL) and an Independent Deployer Certification Exercise (IDCERTEX) to introduce SWATT: a new prospective training standard aimed to increase the tactical readiness of the surface fleet.

“The concept of SWATT is to bridge the gap between the completion of a ship’s basic underway training phase and the integrated/advanced phase,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Darren McPherson, SMWDC’s training and readiness officer. “SWATT will enable ships to come together in a multi-warfare environment. They’ll conduct reps and sets during pre-defined warfighting training that will increase their proficiency prior to their Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and deployment.”

Individual U.S. Navy ships are required to complete a taxing basic underway training phase prior to an integrated COMPTUEX. A ship’s training stages can be compared to scholastic milestones: deployment equates to graduation, COMPTUEX is the final exam, and basic phase is the core class prerequisite. According to McPherson, SWATT will be inserted as a needed “mid-term to satisfy training gaps for surface warfare ships prior to COMPTUEX.”

“I learned from several strike group commanders that ships were challenged to finish their maintenance, or basic phase prior to arriving at COMPTUEX,” said Commander of SMWDC, Rear Adm. James Kilby.

Whether classroom or wardroom, it’s arguable that an education is only as valuable as its instructors. SWATT is not SMWDC’s first test project. Dating back to the summer of 2014, SMWDC has been on a ship-to-ship missionary campaign to recruit the most tactically hungry junior officers. These command endorsed hand-selected surface warfare officers receive an intensive five-month training regimen to become Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI).

WTIs are expected at a junior level to systematically institutionalize the Chief of Naval Operation’s top priority: Warfighting First. These tactical leaders act as force multipliers for their ships by teaching, writing, and validating warfare doctrine. Five WTIs embarked USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), USS Stockdale (DDG 106), and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) during SWATT to monitor and teach watch standers during four surface warfare exercises.


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“We supported an air defense exercise, anti-submarine exercise, a surface warfare exercise, and a live-fire integrated fast attack craft /fast in-shore attack craft exercise,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Cox, SMWDC WTI.

Cox continued. “I went through 19 weeks of intensive Integrated Air and Missile Defense training in Dahlgren, Virginia. “We [WTIs] are expected at a junior level to set and maintain the standard for our specific warfare area in the surface Navy, and that’s what we demonstrated during SWATT.”

SMWDC’s tactical teachers utilized a fresh ‘crawl, walk and run’ approach to the planning of warfighting exercises that was leveraged upon the latest doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures.

“We were heavily involved in the Plan, Brief, Execute and Debrief (PBED) process for each exercise,” said Cox. “We wanted to make the planning processes more tactical, more doctrine-oriented and more measurably discrete. I believe our efforts were well received by the ship’s leadership and the watchstanders due to us showing the benefits of a robust planning process.”

Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, JCS CSG commander, concurred and was impressed by the execution of SMWDC’s pilot SWATT. He said, “The level of talent that SMWDC can bring to bear far exceeds that which is currently available and will definitely result in better trained warfighters. Conducting a SWATT exercise puts surface ships on much better footing to be tactically prepared for strike group integrated operations. This pilot effort should definitely become a model for future strike groups prior to going on COMPTUEX."

SMWDC’s SWATT was an experimental pick-up team effort supported by Commander, U.S. Third Fleet, Destroyer Squadron Thirty One, Carrier Strike Group 15, Center for Surface Combat Systems, Naval Air and Missile Defense Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona, and the Surface Tactical Development Group.

“We received universal support from all involved for this pilot event,” said Kilby, who went underway with John C. Stennis and Stockdale. “This will be a relationship and a product forged over time. The key is for us [SMWDC] to focus on advanced tactical training. When we deliver, ships will welcome it.”

The next trial SWATT is scheduled for fall 2015 with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.

SMWDC will be headquarted in San Diego and commanded by Rear Adm. James Kilby and Deputy Commander, Capt. Frank Olmo. The specifics on upcoming facilities, establishment and locations have not been finalized. Surface Warfare Magazine

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