Cmdr. Lenard Mitchell became the first Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) to take command of a Navy warship during a recent ceremony here aboard Freedom Class littoral combat ship USS Little Rock (LCS 9).
“The tactical foundation, thought process, and critical thinking the WTI program provides will be a huge help as we employ LCS,” said Mitchell.
“Coaching, teaching, and mentoring are ways we can train better, make stronger Sailors, and be ready to meet any challenge we face as a team. You don’t get anywhere by yourself. In the Navy and in life, you owe that to someone to pay that forward. In this case, I’m going to pay it forward to my crew, ship, and the LCS program.”
A Canton, Miss. Native, Mitchell enlisted in the Navy as an operations specialist before graduating from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., and earning a commission in 2000. Before his 2014 selection to the WTI program, he completed sea tours aboard USS Deyo (DD 989) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64) as a strike officer, weapons officer, and combat systems officer. Mitchell said his experiences developed his love for tactics that was necessary to succeed in the WTI training program.
Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center’s (SMWDC) WTI program trains high-performing junior officers in advanced tactics and Surface Warfare expertise before they are placed in production tours where they plan and support advanced tactical training exercises, develop doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), and provide operational support. After these tours they return to the fleet to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Fleet by infusing their knowledge and experience within the watch teams they support and lead.
“Being a WTI challenges your tactical thinking and planning skills,” said Mitchell. “But, it’s in the production tours where we make our buck.” Serving as tactical mentors and instructors at the Afloat Training Group (ATG), the Center for Surface Combat Systems, or SMWDC Headquarters, giving back to the fleet, getting out on ships on the waterfront and actually sharing that knowledge, raising the warfighting ethos for the Tactical Action Officer and tactical watch standers on ships is really where the WTI program makes a difference.
Mitchell is a graduate of SMWDC’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) program in Dahlgren, Va., a rigorous 15-week curriculum focused on the Navy’s most cutting edge tactics and technologies for talented surface warfare officers. The program includes classroom instruction with the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) in Dahlgren, Va., tactical training, mission planning, and on-site visits with the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC), and various Army and Air Force commands. Additionally, WTI candidates each have a specific research focus area to start them on the path to building expertise in that particular area.
“Before we deploy, I’m looking forward to taking the Little Rock team through Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) and other advanced tactical training exercises,” said Mitchell. “The SWATT exercise and the Plan-Brief-Execute-Debrief process challenges the warfighter, the watch team, and will make the whole LCS program better.”
A fast, agile, mission-focused platform, the littoral combat ship is designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric anti-access threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.