Lt. Cmdr. Chris Kennedy
WTI Career Path

SMWDC Introduces Next Generation Warfighters to Decatur
Story by MC3 Lenny Lacrosse, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

Lt. Cmdr. Chris Kennedy, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) at Afloat Training Group San Diego, and staffers of the new Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), visited USS Decatur (DDG 73) to introduce a new career path for junior Surface Warfare Officers (SWO), Dec. 17.

The hour-long brief focused on a new generation of surface warfare tactical experts known as WTIs (pronounced witty).

“A WTI is an officer who gone through graduate-level tactical training, and then sent to a production tour to increase the tactical proficiency of the ship and the fleet,” Kennedy said. “They are SWOs who are tactically-hungry – officers who have the talent, the passion and the acumen to learn and teach the latest warfighting tactics. They enhance the Surface Navy by developing, validating, standardizing and distributing warfare doctine -- then training their fellow officers in those tactics, techniques and procedures.”

Kennedy presented the newly launched WTI program; a career path designed to increase tactical skills at the individual, unit and integrated levels. Modeled after the success of the Naval Air Warfare Development Center (Top Gun) in Fallon, Nev., SMWDC trains a select batch of junior SWOs in advanced tactics to become WTIs in three warfare disciplines: Amphibious (AMW), Anti-Submarine/Anti-Surface (ASW/SUW) or IAMD.

“It is for SWOs, by SWOs,” Kennedy said. “This program is meant to ensure that we are being as proficient as possible in our community. It’s very exciting. We are getting to the point where we have officers and a command, [SMWDC] that personifies the adage ‘Warfighting First”.

During the brief, Kennedy highlighted the benefits of the WTI program and urged Decatur’s junior officers to consider this new opportunity – an opportunity that would equip them to become better professional surface warriors.

“I think on an individual level, officers can learn about something that’s really important for the ship, for the [SWO] community, and for the Navy. It is a chance to become a tactical subject matter expert who can act as a force multiplier, teaching up-to-date tactics and warfighting to his or her wardroom,” said Cmdr. Mary K. Hays, executive officer of Decatur.

SMWDC has graduated 55 IAMD WTIs from their Dahlgren, Virginia detachment, and will be igniting their AMW course in Little Creek, Virginia and an ASW/SUW course in San Diego in early 2016. Their goal is to graduate 110 WTIs per year with one WTI on each ship and staff.

“This is the right path for our community and for our Navy,” said Cmdr. Garrett Miller, commanding officer of Decatur. “I think in 10 to 15 years, it’s going to be a whole different ball game. If you want to be selected while this elite program is still on the ground floor, now is the time.”

SMWDC was formally established June 2015 at Naval Base San Diego with detachments in Dahlgren and Little Creek, Virginia, along with two detachments in San Diego. Led by Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, SMWDC is responsible for increasing the tactical readiness of individual surface warfare communities through the creation of warfare doctrine, underway assessment exercises and WTIs. For more information on SMWDC and WTIs, visit


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