NEWPORT, R.I. -- Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, spoke with Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) staff and students during a visit Feb. 21.
Sawyer’s purpose was to provide an overview of 7th Fleet readiness and to provide feedback on how training ties into ensuring safe and effective operations at sea.
Sawyer spoke with students of the Major Command and Surface Commanders Course and held an all-hands call in Mullen Memorial Auditorium with SWOS staff and students attending department head, advanced division officer, and littoral combat ship officer of the deck courses.
“It’s important for me to hear what our future surface warfare leaders are thinking about and to see firsthand how SWOS is helping to cultivate the culture we have to build together,” said Sawyer. “From the schoolhouse to the fleet, we have plenty of work to do together to implement the changes that our Navy needs.
“First and foremost, we have to make sure we excel at the fundamentals, that we are developing our people and giving them the tools to be competent, confident mariners,” said Sawyer. “What happens here at SWOS is key to how the community is moving forward.”
A common theme throughout the discussions was a passion for getting the training right and making a difference in the profession of surface warfare. Sawyer also spoke candidly about what is taking place in 7th Fleet as the operational forces there work diligently to implement recommendations from the Strategic Readiness Review and Comprehensive Review.
A recent Naval Surface Forces initiative that SWOS is currently executing are officer of the deck (OOD) competency checks in fleet concentration areas. These checks have provided SWOS important insightful data on fleet navigation, seamanship and shiphandling skills sets - data that will be used to further refine the training provided to officers that flow through SWOS’ courses of instruction.
As part of the visit, Sawyer observed staff members recreating the OOD competency checks using the Conning Officer Virtual Environment (COVE) trainer. He also observed a recreation of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) incident. These types of simulators provide state-of-the-art navigation and shiphandling training for all surface warfare officers from first-tour division officers to prospective commanding officers.
“It is great to show Vice Adm. Sawyer SWOS’s approach to training, the quality of our staff, and the steps we are taking to vault the surface warfare community to a new level of excellence, particularly in shiphandling and navigation as detailed in the Comprehensive Review,” said Capt. Scott Robertson, commanding officer of SWOS. “We strive to achieve four things: train to a high standard, instill confidence, inspire leadership growth, and foster warrior ethos.”
SWOS readies sea-bound warriors to serve on surface combatants as officers, enlisted engineers and enlisted navigation professionals to fulfill the Navy's mission to maintain global maritime superiority.
Seventh Fleet, which celebrates its 75th year in 2018, spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South.
Seventh Fleet's area of operation encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 Sailors in the 7th Fleet.