MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- A few of the Surface Fleet’s top tacticians from Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) met with the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron – the Blue Angels - before, during, and after the team’s pre-show practice here, Sept. 28.
The surface warfare officers who attended were all part of the cadre of Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) honing the Surface Fleet’s warfighting edge. WTIs are the surface community’s corollary to Weapons Tactics Instructors in Naval aviation who are trained at Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC). A number of this year’s Blue Angels are aviation WTIs. SMWDC and NAWDC are two of five Warfighting Development Centers (WDC) in the Navy which drive warfighting excellence in specified warfighting areas.
“Having the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the preparation the team goes through for each and every demonstration was value-added to the way I look at training,” said Lt. Jason Thill, an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) WTI from SMWDC Headquarters. “The level of humility they each bring to the table from the Boss [the Blue Angels’ Commanding Officer] down to the most junior pilot during the brief and debrief process was apparent in the cohesiveness of the team.”
The Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief (PBED) process is a well-defined continuous process improvement tool that supports the development of rapidly learning teams. Surface WTIs in attendance at the event, were on hand to see how the Navy’s top tactical pilots keep their edge and ensure that they are able to maneuver safely in extremely close proximity to one another.
The PBED process is akin to the use of high-end video replay capabilities in collegiate and professional athletics to critically assess team performance.
While surface and aviation warfare are linked closely, cross-domain learning among communities is a key value of the WDC concept; ensuring that warfighters in all domains stay sharp. SMWDC was established in 2015 and the surface WTI community grounds itself through three characteristics – credibility, humility, and approachability. Since its establishment, the command has already begun to work with the technical community in the Navy to leverage technology to develop replay tools that provide rapid debrief capability during live, at sea training scenarios.
“Despite being top-notch aviators and team members on one of the Navy’s most elite programs, there wasn’t a shred of ego in the briefing process,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Powell, also an IAMD WTI and the WTI Program Manager at SMWDC. “Humility is clearly a part of being an approachable instructor, a credible professional, also providing the open mind necessary to learn and grow.”
“We don’t hold anything back in our briefings,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tyler Davies, Blue Angels #5 Lead Solo. “Every move we make during one of our demos – and in every combat or routing mission we fly when we aren’t on the team – is critical. It’s much more important to be hard on ourselves during our pre- and post-show briefs than it is to take it easy and not get it right. We aren’t afraid to hurt feelings, if someone messed up, we let them know in the debrief so that they are aware of the faults and so that everyone learns from their errors so that the next performance is improved.”
Lessons learned from the WTI-to-WTI engagements here will be taken back to SWMDC headquarters to enhance the Surface Navy’s processes in order to improve fleet readiness, capability, and lethality.
WTIs play a significant role in planning and executing advanced tactical training at SMWDC. To achieve the high-level of tactical proficiency required to become an effective WTI, first WTI candidates complete an enhanced training course to provide junior officers advanced training in one of four Surface warfare areas - Anti-Submarine/Anti-Surface Warfare (ASW/SUW), IAMD, Amphibious Warfare (AMW), or Mine Warfare (MIW). After they complete the course, they fill readiness production tours in key training positions throughout the Fleet, including SMWDC’s headquarters and four divisions located in California and Virginia.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this process,” said Thill. “We were discussing how we could use what we learned today through our participation in the training we do at SMWDC before we left the flight line after the show.”
SMWDC Headquarters is located at Naval Base San Diego with four divisions in Virginia and California. The command’s mission is to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force across all domains. Its four lines of operation are advanced tactical training, doctrine and tactical guidance development, operational support to combatant commanders, numbered fleet commanders, and task force commanders, and capabilities assessments, experimentation and future requirements.
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