Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3) assigned to Naval Surface Squadron Five (CNSS) 5 completed a Mine Warfare (MIW) Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise with embarked mine warfare trainers May 12-22. CNSS 5 is forward deployed to Manama, Bahrain, in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
“I’m privileged to a be a part of a talented team of experienced professionals that is increasing the level of readiness and capability available to the Fleet Commander,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jermaine Brooms, the senior mentor for the exercise from Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center’s (SMWDC) Sea Combat Division and former MCM Commanding Officer.
SMWDC leads MIW SWATTs and provides advanced tactical training to the Surface Fleet through MIW, Cruiser-Destroyer (CRUDES), Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) SWATTs and other training exercises. Commander, SMWDC is also the Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander equipped with a MIW Battle Staff, enhancing a critical capability for the Navy, which provides for safe transit of commercial, U.S., and coalition ships.
During SWATT exercises, experienced, expert trainers lead afloat staffs and shipboard teams through training events designed to increase the competency and confidences of individuals and teams. MIW SWATTs vary in length and provide dedicated in-port and at sea training for mine countermeasure ships. During the in-port phase for Sentry’s SWATT, senior mentors and trainers support crews with a comprehensive review of MIW related administration to include watchbills, personnel qualifications, training processes, and pre-operational equipment checks. During the at-sea phase, crews received over-the-shoulder mentoring from experts while conducting mine hunting and mine sweeping operations.
The team of trainers that embarked aboard Sentry for the exercise included a former MCM commanding officer and five senior enlisted MIW subject matter experts, including the Navy’s newest Master Chief Mineman, Master Chief Petty Officer Favian Garcia.
“The value of this exercise is that we’re not out here grading the Sailors’ homework and heading home,” said Garcia. “Our goal is to help develop a culture of learning and critical thinking within the shipboard team. This involves the recognition of problems and getting after solutions, by fostering a setting that encourages an open, honest, and humble dialogue between teammates. I believe it’s the best way to do business in a complex warfighting environment.”
During the at-sea portion of SWATT, SMWDCs mentors trained Sentry’s crew on the Plan, Brief, Execute and Debrief (PBED) method, an important skill that encourages critical self-assessment, and increases the speed at which teams can adapt and overcome threats and challenges in the operating environment. The goal of PBED is to develop an environment of transparency and mutual trust among watch team members, where Sailors enter debrief sessions eager to identify their own shortfalls in order to improve team and unit performance. The PBED method is employable in all warfighting competency areas including human, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), and weapon system performance.
As MIW involves eliminating mines to provide safe transit for ships, MCM ships in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations conduct regular calibration to ensure systems are attuned to the local environment. Using variable depth sonar scans, the SeaFox Mine Disposal Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV), and other methods, MCM ships are able to efficiently and effectively search for mine contacts, identify mine threats, and eliminate threats as required to maintain freedom of movement through international waters. Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships also employ high-resolution sonar and neutralization systems capable of detecting, classifying, and neutralizing moored and bottom mines, and are capable of deploying conventional sweeping measures to neutralize threats.
“The SWATT visit has been a great benefit to the crew of USS Sentry. The advanced training on tactics and new combat system upgrades have helped increase our proficiency, keeping Sentry at the forefront of Mine Warfare in the Arabian Gulf,” said Lt. Marcello Frierson, Sentry operations officer.
SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and is one of the Navy's five Warfighting Development Centers. Its mission is to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force across all domains. It has four divisions located in Virginia and California focused on MIW, Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Anti-Submarine Warfare/Surface Warfare, and Amphibious Warfare.