Warfare Tactics Instructors
Lead Pilot Underway Exercise

We crawl. We walk. We run. And we’ve all learned the hard way, that if we run too early in the process, we often find ourselves splayed out on the ground venting our frustration to the world at large. Of course, other than the occasional skinned knee, we don’t usually pay too high a price for our impatience to maneuver around the playground. Not so in training to maneuver around the open oceans conducting naval warfare operations, where the “walk” phase may get left behind due to operational schedules.

To put the “walk” back in the “crawl-walk-run” approach, the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) is training a cadre of junior surface warfare officers (SWOs) as Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTIs), to bring Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) to the fleet. Before the closeout of 2015, SMWDC WTIs joined Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 during its Group Sail, Nov. 11 to 22, in Atlantic Ocean training areas, to conduct key multi-ship/multi-platform training prior to the DESRON’s participation in COMPTUEX (Composite Unit Training Exercise).

“Naval warfare in the 21st century is more complex than ever,” said Capt. Darren McPherson, SMWDC training and readiness officer. “The capabilities of maritime systems require a renewed focus of training effort that can counter high-end sophisticated threats. SWATT is the ‘walk’ phase, where Basic Phase training is the ‘crawl,’ and COMPTUEX is the ‘run’. SWATT institutionalizes the ‘walk’ that would otherwise not be conducted in the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan.”

The DESRON 26 Group Sail training was the second trial SWATT exercise, yet the first one where each event was led by a WTI. As SMWDC is still growing its personnel and expertise, the SWATT also engaged the assistance of subject matter experts from various waterfront commands, including Afloat Training Group, Center for Surface Combat Systems, Fleet Electronic Warfare Center, Navy Information Operations Command and the Undersea Warfighting Development Center.

“The most inspiring thing from our second SWATT was the performance of our junior officer WTIs,” said McPherson. “Our WTIs proved they can deliver quality training to Surface Forces – specifically during the FAC/FIAC [fast attack craft/fast attack inbound craft] and SAG [surface action group] v. SAG events. Their efforts will be critical to future SWATTs and to increasing the warfighting proficiency of our Surface Forces.”

Embarked on ships across the DESRON, the WTIs provided anti-submarine/surface warfare (ASW/SUW) expertise to a variety of exercise events -- all with a goal of providing high-velocity learning through coaching and mentoring watch standers, rather than directing and examining; a new approach that was welcomed, and proved to be an opportunity for tactical growth.


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“Arriving with the goal of training instead of grading or certifying, made the watch standers more comfortable asking us questions,” said Lt. Damon Goodrich-Houska, (ASW/SUW) WTI, embarked on USS San Jacinto (CG 56). “SWOs were motivated and excited to get into higher-level tactical discussions, and exercise some of the skills they only get to talk about on paper. As for me, I worked to be less-directive – primarily asking pointed questions in order to facilitate an implementation of doctrine and tactical thinking during all stages.”

Similarly, Lt. Ben Graybosch, (ASW/SUW) WTI said he took a very capable watch team onboard USS Mason (DDG 87) and helped them process the initial overload of information and unfamiliarity as they progressed from single-ship basic training, to a multi-ship/multi-platform scenario. He even showed them a few tricks he learned in his extensive WTI training.

“I helped them over their initial hurdles so they could start thinking tactically; from there I was able to help them fine tune their watch. It was great to see Sailors of all ranks have a stake and want to win, and it was awesome to be part of the fight,” said Graybosch. “After I got an idea of their level of training, I gradually folded into an advisor role -- staying out of the way, yet functioning like I was on watch with them.”

While the WTIs made a positive impact on the cruisers and destroyers, Capt. Brian Shipman noted the WTIs also made a measurable difference in a more subtle, but just as important area: the PBED process. “Instilling the plan-brief-execute-debrief process into warfighting enables tacticians to truly learn lessons, and not just observe them, but also apply that knowledge to the next tactical scenario,” said Shipman, director of SMWDC San Diego’s detachment, who was also on Mason during SWATT.

“When we arrived onboard USS Nitze (DDG 94), we provided the watch standers with a complete, partially complete, and a blank brief requirement,” explained Lt. Aaron Jochimsen, (ASW/SUW) WTI as to how he taught the PBED process. “Nitze was delivering a quality brief that captured all the requirements of the PBED process by the third day. The wardroom feedback was that they liked that, in a short amount of time, a watch team could learn to ask the right questions, and self-assess an exercise.”

The impactful value of embarking SMWDC WTIs is becoming known even in such a short time of existence.

“Our WTI patch is being recognized as a valuable resource to the waterfront," said Lt. Christine Deuro, integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) WTI for Center for Surface Combat Systems.

“There is a reputation in the fleet that SMWDC is helping ships become more proficient warfighters; the crew of USS Stout (DDG 55) was very excited and appreciative of that,” said Lt. Todd Weeks, (ASW/SUW) WTI.

The Stout commanding officer was equally effusive in the benefits of embarking WTIs.


“Having a WTI onboard while executing a scenario helps the team look at the battle problem from multiple angles, and then choose the course of action that will have the most impact,” said Cmdr. Adam Cheatham. “I believe exposing my team early to those tactics provided by the WTIs, prior to COMPTUEX, was comparable to receiving a pre-test before the final exam.”

With the pre-test complete, the ships of DESRON 26 successfully bridged the gap between the basic underway phase and the advanced phase of naval warfare training.

“The addition of the SWATT program enhanced our tactical readiness tremendously,” said Cmdr. Paul J. Kaylor, Nitze commanding officer. “As a ship that just completed the Basic Phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, we were certified to ‘crawl and walk,’ SWATT helped us to start running.” Surface Warfare Magazine

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