Surface WTIs Bring Together Tactical Integration of Strike Groups and Air Wings

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Devin Lowe
15 July 2021
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Lt. Tia Walker (left) and Lt. Taylor Reck, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI), pose for a photo outside the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) in Fallon, Nev. where they instruct at the Integrated Air Defense Course (IADC) at Carrier Airborne Early Weapons School (CAEWS).
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210504-N-FG807-1046
Lt. Tia Walker (left) and Lt. Taylor Reck, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI), pose for a photo outside the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) in Fallon, Nev. where they instruct at the Integrated Air Defense Course (IADC) at Carrier Airborne Early Weapons School (CAEWS).
Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Devin Lowe
VIRIN: 210504-N-FG807-1046
210504-N-FG807-1046 The roar of naval aircraft flying through vast, blue skies is a familiar sound for those stationed in the “Oasis of Nevada”. Fallon, home to Naval Air Station Fallon, is a small town nestled between bird-filled wetlands and tall, dusty mountains. Here, two surface Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) play a large role in fleet integration between Carrier Air Wings and Carrier Strike Groups.

Lt. Taylor Reck and Lt. Tia Walker, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) WTIs, are instructors for the Integrated Air Defense Course (IADC) at Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center’s (NAWDC) Carrier Airborne Early Weapons School.

“SMWDC [Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center] co-owns the IADC course and it is presented in conjunction with NAWDC,” said Reck. “It is designed to be one of the first integrated training opportunities for the air wing and strike group to operate together, and to practice high-end warfighting tactics in a simulated environment.”

As part of a strike group’s pre-deployment training cycle, IADC integrates air wing and strike group warfighting elements to work through challenges before they deploy.

“The integration of the surface and aviation communities’ operations is impressive,” said Walker. “I think it’s beneficial and something both communities need more of. Through IADC the fleet and surface warfighters come together with the air wing and fighter pilots in the same room and have face-to-face interactions, and really nail down tactics. The commanding officers and operators all meet each other; it’s a great time to work through strengths and weaknesses and prepare for deployment.”

Reck and Walker serve as Aegis instructors, facilitating mission planning, supervising execution and making recommendations according to tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP), as well as leading in-house debriefs and simulations.

“We do a lot of exercises where Aegis ships are working together, the air wing is working together, as they complete their own training,” said Reck. “During IADC, an entire strike group and air wing will come together and execute these TTP that are inherently reliant on each other and require detailed coordination. They get to practice tactics in a simulated environment, where high-risk tactics can be safely practiced and assessed without real world danger.”
The controlled IADC training environment provides the strike group and air wing an opportunity to work through operations at every level and address friction points.

“A lot of times you hear about the ‘crawl, walk, run’ phases of training progression,” said Walker. “IADC really breaks that down. Some of the earliest scenarios may be normal operations, maybe with slightly increased hostilities. We elevate training all the way to actual employment of weapons. Then operators have the ability to actually talk to the Hawkeye and F/A-18 pilots, and practice controlling aircraft and integrating everything.”

IADC provides more than an opportunity for the strike groups and air wings to grow – the instructors also walk away with professional growth.

“I have learned a ton being an instructor in this course,” said Reck. “I learned about how I want to impart my knowledge and experience on the fleet. I feel like I have, even in a small capacity, been able to improve the integration between the ships and their air wing prior to deployment. IADC is one of my favorite weeks we have out here because you get to meet the fleet, where they’re at, and try and elevate them through integration with their counterparts and place an emphasis on the current and most relevant TTP.”

Reck and Walker are assigned to NAWDC, and they bring a wealth of knowledge from a ship and fleet perspective.

“For the WTI program there are multiple focus areas or paths that you could take,” said Walker. “I chose the integrated air and missile defense program. I think the WTI program is beneficial professionally and personally. It also enhances the fleet as a whole. SWOs are kind of a jack-of-all-trades, that’s what we’re known for. The WTI program allows interested warfighters to become tactical experts and to take knowledge and experience back to the fleet to win the war.”

WTIs typically work primarily within the surface warfare aspects of the Navy, however Walker said her work within the aviation community has been a unique experience and she would like to see more cross-domain warfare experiences in the surface WTI community.
“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment coming over to the aviation side of things,” said Reck. “I’ve gotten a different perspective on instructing, briefing, debriefing and seeing their understanding of how the surface Navy works. I’ve gotten a chance to increase that integration and understanding both on the surface side and the aviation side.”

SWOs selected to become WTIs complete training and become surface warfighting experts in one of four warfare areas – IAMD, anti-submarine warfare/surface warfare, mine warfare, or amphibious warfare.

“For anyone who is considering the WTI program, I think the benefits and the level of training that you get through the WTI course is something that you won’t get anywhere else in the SWO continuum,” continued Reck. “The level of detail that I was exposed to in the IAMD curriculum far exceeded my expectations and made me more confident in my knowledge.”

SWOs interested in professional growth, tactical warfighting development, and opportunities to increase the Fleet’s readiness and lethality can email the WTI program managers at SWO_WTI@navy.mil for more details.

 
 
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