Wade Relieves Kilby at Navy’s ‘Top SWO’ Command

SAN DIEGO - With the sound of the Navy Band and the serene backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) held its first change of command ceremony at Naval Base San Diego, Aug. 5.

One of the Navy’s new admirals, Rear Adm. John Wade assumed command of SMWDC from Rear Adm. Jim Kilby during a pier side ceremony led by Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“Jim Kilby has been here from the beginning, bringing this command into existence and leading the Surface Navy into greater tactical proficiency during critical times,” said Rowden. “He has been at the forefront of creating warfare tactics instructors whose impact will be felt for years.”

SMWDC headquarters opened in San Diego, June 9, 2015 with four bicoastal divisions. Those divisions include an operational Mine Warfare Division in San Diego, an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Division in Dahlgren, Virginia; an Amphibious Warfare Division in Little Creek, Virginia; and a Sea Combat Division – also located in San Diego.

Though SMWDC was formed officially a year ago, Kilby actually assumed command during the pre-commissioning stages, Aug. 5, 2014.

“We came here two years ago with a plan to raise the tactical acumen of the Surface Warfare community at the individual, unit and integrated levels,” said Kilby. “Warfare tactics instructors [WTI] are now the conduits to systematically institutionalize that effort on surface ships and staffs. Patience is required. We won’t realize the potential of this effort tomorrow, in a year, or possibly the next decade, but we will realize it – we must. We only have to read the newspapers to get a sense of the complexity of the environment that our ships and Sailors are operating in every day.”


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Akin to TOPGUN for the Navy’s best aviators, SMWDC is charged with increasing the tactical proficiency of the Surface Fleet by selecting an elite cadre of Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) to become Surface WTIs – the tactical best of the best. WTIs come from three Surface Warfare communities: integrated air and missile defense, amphibious warfare, or anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare. They’re best identified in the fleet by their red and black patches.

Under Kilby’s strategic vision, 84 SWOs graduated from SMWDC’s intensive 3-5 month WTI courses in Virginia and San Diego. And graduates have quickly become tactical force multipliers in the fleet by leading advanced Missile and Surface Warfare exercises, mentoring combat watch teams on cruisers and destroyers, and writing and updating warfare doctrine. Since opening, SMWDC WTIs have “rewritten and revised 19 tactical publications” Kilby said.

“For the commanding officers in the crowd, I need you to continue to beat this drum and have your best young officers apply for the WTI program,” said Kilby. “We’re recruiting and investing in our youth. Remember, we don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”

WTIs also led SMWDC’s pilot Surface Warfare Advance Tactical Training (SWATT) -- a three-week exercise inserted between a ship’s basic phase and its Composite Training Unite Exercise. This effort tactically prepares cruisers, destroyers and amphibious ships for deployment. Kilby’s staff successfully led two bicoastal trial SWATTs with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group in 2015 and Destroyer Squadron 26 in 2016.

Operationally, SMWDC led the Mine Counter Measures (MCM) operations for Vigilant Shield 2015 in the Southern California (SOCAL) operating area, and integrated with the Republic of Korea Navy during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise in 2015.

Kilby also led as the operational Commander for the SOCAL portion of the Navy’s largest multinational exercise, Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. Kilby and his Mine Warfare Division, Commander Task Force 177, integrated with six partner nations and 24 units to form an international cohesive coalition that successfully disposed of 77 inert mines near SOCAL military installations.

As SMWDC’s first commanding officer, he conducted more than 80 ship visits to spread the tactical gospel of the new command and how it benefits junior SWOs. He met with congressional leadership. He me with Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ash Carter, two consecutive Chiefs of Naval Operations and multiple foreign-allied leaders to increase international command partnerships.

His successor, Wade comes from Commander, Naval Surface Force, and U.S. Pacific Fleet as the former chief of staff. He is only the second admiral to lead SMWDC.

“I thank Jim for establishing SMWDC and setting the standard; I’m ready to get to work,” said Wade. “Jim, you brought SMWDC to life. You’ve taken an idea and a vision and made it a reality. And I promise as the new commander to give it my all and take the football down the field. Everything we do is focused on our ships and our Sailors to ensure they have the confidence and competence to employ their weapons systems to fight and win if called upon.”

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