SAN DIEGO – Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) leadership, staff, and Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) participated in the 2018 Armed Forces Communications and Electronics (AFCEA) WEST Conference, Feb. 6-8. SMWDC personnel were foundational elements for two connected panel discussions during the event.
Cmdr. Jeff Heames and Cmdr. Shea Thompson, SMWDC’s operations, training and readiness and requirements, analysis, and experimentation Branch Heads respectively, composed a panel titled, “Looking Ahead: Surface Tactical Training, Experimentation, and Operating Concepts.” The panel highlighted the important connective tissue between data garnered from SMWDC-led or supported training events and the development of future requirements for warfare areas under SMWDC’s cognizance through the Warfare Improvement Programs. SMWDC is focused on research and evaluation of performance data in three areas: human performance, doctrine, and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP), and combat systems.
“The processes we quarterback at SMWDC enable us to leverage relationships within the Fleet and the technical community to provide type commanders and resource sponsors the ground truth they need to make informed resourcing decisions,” said Rear Adm. John Wade, commander of SMWDC. “The only way we will be able to continue to fill this important role in the Surface community is through well-designed processes in a collaborative environment where truth and data are our benchmarks. I am very proud of the progress our team has made in just two-and-a-half short years.”
The work force driving SMWDC’s lines of operation, and that is helping to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force, are SMWDC trained and qualified WTI. To highlight WTI importance to SMWDC’s mission – and the professional development of the future leaders of the Surface Fleet - Heames led a second panel titled “Changing Culture: Roles of Surface Warfare Tactics Instructors.”
The panel featured six WTIs who discussed their experiences and the notable difference they are making in the Fleet from updating TTPs to providing afloat training through events such as SMWDC’s premier advanced tactical training exercise - Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT). WTIs earn qualification in one of three warfare areas through SMWDC –Anti-Submarine/Surface Warfare (ASW/SUW), Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), or Amphibious Warfare (AMW).
“The opportunity to develop deep tactical warfare expertise at my level was enticing,” said Lt. Jen Bower, an AMW WTI and SWATT planner at SMWDC’s Headquarters. “All of us at the command are SWOs first-and-foremost, but the tactical and continuous improvement skills I am learning and refining here are both learnable and teachable. It’s important that we transmit what we’ve learned, and continue to learn, to the Fleet.”
After completing a two-week Instructor and Tactics Course at the SMWDC Headquarters, WTI candidates complete 14 to 17 weeks of rigorous classroom instruction, mission planning, and training scenarios focused on the application of the Navy’s most cutting edge tactics and technologies depending on their warfare specialty. Upon successful completion of the course, they are designated as WTIs and move onto a readiness production tour where they refine and teach their skills through a variety of specially designated billets throughout the Fleet. Currently there are more than 200 WTIs in the Fleet, a vast majority of them filling readiness production billets.
The WTI program is available to all division officers, department heads eligible for shore duty and a small number of limited duty and chief warrant officers. The ideal on ramp into the WTI community is during the first shore tour following completion of at-sea division officer assignments. This timing allows the WTI program to fit neatly in a career pipeline.
SMWDC continues to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Fleet as the Surface Warfare community’s Warfighting Development Center. It is headquartered at Naval Base San Diego with four divisions in Virginia and California focused on Sea Combat, IAMD, AMW, and Mine Warfare.