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NavWeek: Maritime Mavericks

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After more than three decades Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden finally has what he’s always wanted – a Top Gun school for surface warfare officers.

In what’s been described as a “pep-rally-style” ceremony – and those who know Rowden can imagine him as the head cheerleader, the Naval Surface Forces commander emceed the ceremony earlier this month to celebrate the establishment of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) at Naval Base San Diego (NBSD).

Rowden introduced the new advanced tactics and training command to those gathered on the waterfront at Pier 2 – a continuation of the distributed lethality mindset that the surface warfare cadre has been cultivating in recent months.

"I've been waiting 33 years for this day; what a great day this is for our surface warfare community," Rowden says. "The establishment of SMWDC signifies a major milestone in how we support CNO's 'Warfighting First' focus; advancing combat capability and warfare competencies of our surface force."

SMWDC will increase the tactical proficiency of the surface fleet by synchronizing multiple warfighting mission areas under a single command - headquarted at NBSD.

"This has been a long time coming for our community," said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, commander of SMWDC. "We will align the surface warfare community through synchronized tactics, doctrine, and training in air warfare, amphibious warfare, ballistic missile defense, mine warfare, surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. This is an exciting time to be a surface warfare officer."

SMWDC will also provide advanced tactical training and warfighting tactics, techniques and procedures across mission areas to develop a standard for warfighting tactical excellence, the Navy says. It will train junior officers in advanced tactics to become warfare tactics instructors (WTIs) in amphibious warfare, anti-submarine warfare/surface warfare, integrated air and missile defense, and mine warfare.

These WTIs will be the tactical subject matter experts for ships and staffs and help their commands by teaching, writing, validating, and revising warfare doctrine.

"It's a different construct for the surface community that is based largely on the naval aviation training and doctrine communities," Kilby says. "NSAWC, which is now the Naval Air Warfighting Development Center, has been very successful for decades. The surface community is the Navy's oldest community yet we need to learn from the aviators' proven model."

Capt. Frank Olmo, deputy commander of SMWDC, says, "We're in the initial phase of this new command. Our goal is to produce 110 WTIs per year. These WTIs will act as force-multipliers on every ship and [at] tactical training commands."

Kilby says the select cadre of WTIs will be post-second-tour division officers who will go to ships as department heads to supplement senior warfighters with the latest in-depth tactical knowledge.

"I'm excited to be leading this command," Kilby says. "I think it is an awesome opportunity for our community to connect in a way we haven't before."

All they need is a good Hollywood script and a decent soundtrack and they’re good to go.

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