Sailors from the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) departed Morehead City, North Carolina, June 21, to participate in a first for the Navy on the East Coast – an ARG Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise.
SWATTs are the premiere advanced tactical training exercise developed and led by Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC). The training focuses on advanced tactics at sea to improve warfighting proficiency, lethality, and ship interoperability before entering the integrated phase of training, prior to deployment.
“While our headquarters is located in San Diego, we have divisions on both coasts and representatives in most fleet concentration areas. We are committed to increasing the lethality and tactical proficiency of the entire surface fleet,” said Rear Adm. Dave Welch, SMWDC’s commander. “I am proud of the work our headquarters and divisional teams do to have an immediate and positive impact to surface fleet proficiency.”
ARG SWATT exercises provide dedicated in port and at sea training for surface ships and focus on watch team, unit, air defense commander, and surface combat commander training. The event typically takes place prior to full amphibious squadron and Marine expeditionary unit integ-ration training, known as PMINT. The exercise provides focused training in a number of specific warfare areas including anti-submarine warfare/surface warfare, integrated air and missile defense, amphibious warfare, mine warfare, and information warfare.
“It’s an exciting time to work with the SMWDC team to conduct the first East Coast ARG SWATT,” said Rear Adm. Brad Skillman, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2. “Anytime an ARG has the opportunity to receive operational training that will prepare them in greater warfighting proficiency and interoperability, that is a very positive thing for our Navy and Marine Corps team.”
SMWDC was established in 2015 to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the surface force as the surface warfare community’s warfighting development center. Since that time, five SWATT exercises have been completed in both ARG and cruiser-destroyer units. The first two ARG SWATTs were completed off the coast of Southern California with USS America (LHA 6) and USS Essex (LHD 2) ARGs. These early SWATTs not only supported ship preparation for deployment, but also led to critical organizational learning as SMWDC matures as an institution. For example, the Kearsarge ARG SWATT curriculum relies on feedback and iterative processes to ensure SMWDC-delivered training prepares ships for the high-end, integrated scenarios they will see in the future.
What makes SMWDC’s training unique is more than simply a focus on high velocity learning – it’s also the methods by which the command drives learning. First, using senior mentors including, post major-command commanders, Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI), and technical community experts, to plan training events, brief teams, and embark ships for underway to mentor teams as they learn. A key method mentors and WTIs use to develop watch teams is the Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief (PBED) process. With the PBED process, after planning and completing a training event, mentors and WTIs leverage the technical community to provide rapid debrief using replay tools enabling watch teams to critically assess their own performance and improve. The most significant benefit to watch teams is they learn from the most accurate information and develop the critical thinking skills to continue learning throughout the integrated phase of training and deployment.
“One of the biggest highlights in my position,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Hiscock, an Amphibious WTI and lead planner for the Kearsarge ARG SWATT, “is watching teams progress throughout a well-designed SWATT and to move from a team that is waiting for guidance, to a team that has the confidence to aggressively self-assess and have the humility to learn and grow together. I have no doubt that we’ll see the same while underway for this SWATT.”
Ultimately, SWATT events provide high-fidelity system, tactics, and human performance data needed by the surface warfare enterprise to improve warfighting readiness and increase lethality. After SWATT concludes, data recorded during the events is further extracted through a partnership between SMWDC and Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) – Corona. There the data is reviewed in a Data Analysis Working Group which analyzes system, operator, and tactics performance. The results are parsed out to appropriate entities within SMWDC and the surface warfare community to refine doctrine and tactical guidance, provide capabilities assessments, define future requirements, and to inform future training events.
“Before any of our ships deploy there is unit training and certifications that take place, said Capt. Daniel Blackburn, commander of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 6. “Participating in SWATT will allow the Kearsarge ARG team the multi-warfare training environment needed to become more efficient in advanced tactics for future missions.”
Units participating in the SMWDC-led Kearsarge ARG SWATT are PHIBRON 6, Kearsarge, USS Arlington (LPD 24), and USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43). Commands supporting the exercise include Fleet Forces Atlantic Exercise Coordination Center (FFAECC), Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC) Virginia Capes (VACAPES), Naval Information Warfighting Development Center (NIWDC), Information Warfare Training Group (IWTG) Norfolk, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 4, NSWC - Corona, Tactical Training Group Atlantic (TTGL), Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Atlantic (EWTGLANT), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 detachment 4, and Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21.
SMWDC has four divisions focused on mine warfare, amphibious warfare, integrated air and missile defense, and anti-submarine warfare/surface warfare. SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and exists to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of surface forces across all domains.