Training for the High-End Fight with the Naval Strike Missile

The following is a guest post by Lt. Georges Banks, the Combat Systems Officer aboard USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10).

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) Departs for Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials

Recently, four members of the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) combat systems team and I traveled to Kongsberg, Norway. Konsberg is a beautiful city, but our trip was not a vacation. It was an outstanding opportunity for us to train and sharpen our warfighting skills as we prepare to deploy.

In an effort to bring a rapid, enhanced offensive capability to littoral combat ships (yes, it is as cool as it sounds) and work toward training a crew to win the high end fight, our team attended the Theory of Operations Course for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) pilot course hosted by Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace (KDA).

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 23, 2014) A Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) is launched from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California. The missile scored a direct hit on a mobile ship target. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell)

Here’s what happened.

During our visit, we learned about NSM directly from the software engineers, project managers, and mission planners. The KDA team trained us on tactical and technical capabilities of this unique weapon. We learned about various tactics and planning tools that maximize the lethality of the weapon system. The NSM is a game-changer. It adds more punch to our lethal anti-ship capability.

Here are a few reasons why this trip was important.

  1. Achieving High-Velocity Learning

One of my favorite aspects of the course was the prioritization of hands-on training. We spent a lot of time planning missions and learning the system inside and out. Of the 10 days we spent in the classroom, seven were spent practicing system operation with a focus on a variety of tactical scenarios.

  1. Testing Tactical Scenarios

Our team was excited to stress the system, and by the second week, the instructors allowed us to break into teams to build individual scenarios to test against each other. The instructors were open to allowing us to “test” the system and remarked that we were by far the most inquisitive class they had led.

  1. Feeding Back for the Future

As it was the pilot course, we had the unique opportunity to provide real-time feedback to both the Norwegian instructors and the Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) representatives tasked with building the course objectives for the future NSM training pipeline. It was refreshing to provide meaningful and direct feedback on such an important naval program.

Group Photo
Kongsberg, Norway – USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) GOLD crew members – Chief Fire Controlman Bryan Wells, Lt. Georges Banks, Fire Controlman 1st Class Joshua Walling, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Justin Nguyen, and Chief Fire Controlman Chief Samuel Murfree – posed with instructors of the Theory of Operations Course for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM). The team participated in training to help build their winning, high-end war fighting crew as the ship prepares for its first deployment this year.

Traveling to Norway to work with KDA was truly a career highlight – an amazing experience all-around!  By the end of the course, our team had made new friends, established a good working relationship with the KDA team, and enjoyed Norwegian cuisine and the beautiful countryside. Most importantly, though, we became better Warfighters. Now, we’re bringing newly-learned expertise back to our ship. I am confident that our team can effectively employ the NSM weapon system and develop tactics that will carry us through certification and deployment, as well as benefit the future of NSM on U.S. Navy ships.


The 2018 Surface Warfare Officer of the Year Sounds Off on Surface Readiness Improvements

Last week we congratulated Lt. James Ballingall – an officer currently assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) – on his selection as the 2018 CNSP Surface Warfare Officer of the Year!

Check out to find out what it took for this outstanding #SurfaceWarrior to earn this accolade.

Here is his winning essay on what he thinks has been the largest recent improvement to Surface Force readiness:

5393112.jpgThe release of the Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual (SFTRM) is the most significant readiness improvement to the community and for Milius in the past year because: it shifts the focus of training directly to the watchstanders, instead of the training teams; it buys back time for ship’s Commanding Officers and leadership to train their crews; and, it extends the certification interval for Forward Deployed Naval Force Japan (FDNF-J) ships to 36-months and better codifies the Basic Phase training entitlement.

The new SFTRM was promulgated by Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP) and Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CNSL) in November 2018.  It replaces the Surface Force Readiness Manual (SFRM) and lays out how we will train and certify our ships in the Basic Phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP).

The SFTRM re-emphasizes the prioritization of training and certifying watchstanders to do their jobs, rather than on evaluating the ship’s training teams, while elevating the training standards for the ship’s training teams.  Under the Valiant Shield 2018 -  Ronald Reagan Strike Group - Live FireSFTRM, the Afloat Training Group (ATG) in each fleet concentration area, CNSP’s executive agent for Basic Phase training, assumes the role of the training team in a phase termed “mission area certification.” Once the crew is certified in that mission area, the training team undergoes more training and evaluation to attain a separate training team certification.  The training team members, however, are required to attend all of the same training as the watchstanders. This benefits the ship and enhances training in three primary ways: it allows the most experienced members of the crew to serve as “drilling watchstanders” through the mission area certification; it allows ATG to model effective training team techniques to the crew; and, it relieves the ship of the administrative burden associated with training team functions during mission area certification.  This better allows ships to “train (and certify) as they would fight” out at sea.

The SFTRM also gives ships the ability to work ahead in mission area certifications – once they successfully demonstrate a Certification Exercise (CE) for ATG, they do not need to demonstrate it again.  In the words of Vice Adm. Richard Brown, CNSP Commander, this allows COs and crews to push the envelope and foster a culture of “excellence over compliance.” It allows them to advance the goal line beyond completion of SFTRM CEs and Repetitive Exercises (REs) and get after tailored-training specific to that ship, that crew, and their individual needs.  The benefits of this initiative are already being realized all over the force in ships, such as USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Pinckney (DDG 91), and USS Charleston (LCS 18).[1]This natural incentive will drive ships to lean forward into their Basic Phase events, certify early, then innovate and build on that training to make their watchstanders more proficient – truly embodying a culture of excellence.  While Milius has not been in the Basic Phase since the release of the SFTRM, they have worked with ATG Western Pacific and Naval Surface Group Western Pacific to follow the intent and spirit of this change while undergoing Certification Validations during the Sustainment Phase.  The Milius crew prepares thoroughly for Limited Training Team (LTT) visits and executes CEs for trainers, which eliminates the requirement to demonstrate them again for the CV.

Finally, the SFTRM extends the FDNF-J OFRP to 36-months for training certifications, an extension from the 24-month OFRP under the previous SFRM.  This aligns the FDNF-J ships’ training OFRP with that of their stateside counterparts. It also means that they will have more time to train and that Basic Phase certifications earned by FDNF-J ships will now be granted for 36-months.  The SFTRM also codifies a dedicated 18-week Basic Phase entitlement and goes as far as to stipulate that other major events cannot be scheduled concurrently.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Valiant Shield 2018

Before these changes, ships, such as the Milius,were getting less mileage (24-months as opposed to 36-months) than their stateside counterparts for earning the same certifications.  Other FDNF-J ships routinely had operational tasking, Continuous Maintenance Availabilities (CMAVs), and other significant conflicts overlaid on their Basic Phases. The SFTRM’s FDNF-J realignment maximizes return on the significant investment made to get FDNF-J ships through the Basic Phase.  The return on that investment is realized by the crew, the force, and the operational commanders.  Simply put, extending the FDNF-J OFRP generates more readiness.

That’s what it’s all about. It’s the mission of CNSP, and it ought to be the mission of every Sailor across the force.  Every time a mission area certification is earned, every time a training team runs a drill and re-validates an RE, and every time a ship innovates a smarter way to train in a mission area beyond what is written in the SFTRM, they are generating readiness.  As Vice Adm. Brown has told us, “We don’t build readiness for ‘readiness’ sake. We must turn that readiness into lethality. And we do that through an unrelenting pursuit of excellence over compliance.”[2]The SFTRM inspires that culture of excellence in the Surface Force – a culture that can permeate all facets of shipboard readiness and operations.

– Lt. James Ballingall is the 2018 Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Surface Warfare Officer of the Year. He is assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69).

[1]“Rewarding a Culture of Excellence, Ships; Crew Can Now Earn Certification Early.” Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 6 Mar. 2019,

[2]VADM Brown, Richard. ‘State of the Surface Force.” Surface Navy Association National Symposium. 15 Jan. 2019, Arlington, VA.

Inside the Basic Division Officer Course, Part 3

Welcome back and I am excited to bring my final installment of the inside look to the SWOS BDOC! Once again, I’m ensign David Glaser, and this is my last post prior to graduating. Since the last installment, I’ve completed modules covering Rules of the Road, Navigation, several more C.O.V.E. scenarios, and Divisional Officer fundamentals, among other training. Having now gone through BDOC, I can give my parting thoughts on the program.

A lot of the early days of BDOC felt like I was trying catch a fire hose of knowledge in a small pail. It took time, but I was able to adjust to the pace of the course. What BDOC does well is re-enforcing knowledge that new ensigns will see on their ship, and later on SWO boards.

1000w_q95-4In total, we went through about nine C.O.V.E. scenarios with a considerable amount of time dedicated to conning. We were given plenty of opportunities to apply classroom and textbook lessons, such as Rules of the Road, in the C.O.V.E. practicing realistic situations as a conning officer. For example, I was put in a night transit scenario with multiple contacts and was tasked to apply the rules to what I saw visually and on radar. As a visual learner, the melding of classroom and simulator lessons drove home what I should be looking for and what skills I need to deliberately work to improve.

Each session was logged in our newly issued Surface Warfare Mariner Skills Logbook, providing documentation of simulator time, who the instructor was, and simulator conditions. We also were provided feedback from instructors to think about for future scenarios.

Knowledge builds confidence, and after completing BDOC I feel more confident now than I was when we started. As mentioned in my first blog, I had only spent a little time on one Navy ship prior to starting BDOC—so I was starting from scratch. The training modules have improved my ship handling capabilities, which to me seems to be the most daunting task as a junior officer. In the first C.O.V.E., I did not understand the full capabilities of how a ship handles (DDG); by the end of the last C.O.V.E., I was performing twist maneuvers using the split ship concept.

1000w_q95-5As well, gaining a solid understanding of basic divisional functions has helped me mentally prepare for my role as a divisional officer. In the last week of class, we were able to talk to command master chiefs and commanding officers from the waterfront. Our conversations ranged from how to work effectively with your chief to how to better yourself and your division.

Throughout the course, it was made clear that BDOC expectations have been raised and it’s getting harder. We were forewarned that not everyone may graduate.

As a junior officer, it doesn’t matter if you commissioned through OCS, NROTC, or the Academy, I feel BDOC gives the baseline knowledge you need to succeed, and it’s up to you to learn it. The instructors’ commitment and passion for the SWO community is apparent when they teach. I will say that they make BDOC more enjoyable.


I’m glad I attended BDOC and I know I am better for it. I not only feel I am better prepared, but I am also even more excited to report to my first ship. See you in the Fleet.

Inside the Basic Division Officer Course, Part 2

Editors note: The following blog from Ensign Glaser was as of March 1st.

Welcome back fellow readers and surface warfare enthusiasts. For those of you just tuning in, I am Ensign Glaser giving an update in all things about my SWOS BDOC experience.

First off, BDOC is no joke. It is a challenging course and the pace is much faster than I anticipated. From day one it has been a continuous fire hose of information. So far our wardroom has covered engineering, damage control, and maritime warfare. Engineering and maritime warfare have been the most challenging so far due to the sheer volume of information and level of knowledge required. We are scheduled to do Rules of the Road in the coming weeks and, in speaking to the other wardrooms, it seems to easily be the hardest module. BDOC staff helps students by providing resources aimed at helping us learn material, such as practice quizzes and lesson handouts.Surface Line Week 2018 - Rules of the Road Tests

BDOC also coordinates ship tours to reinforce what has been taught in the classroom – put a “face with a name” of the systems, concepts and terminology we have learned. To date, we have visited USS Pinckney (DDG 91) and USS Princeton (CG 59). As most of us ensigns had never been on a ship before, these tours were very eye opening. In addition to the ship tours, BDOC also has static displays that help us visualize the systems, such as damage control systems and the CIWS [close-in weapon system].

Conning Officer Virtual Environment (COVE) SimulatorGoing into BDOC, I was looking forward to working with the COVE [Conning Officer Virtual Environment] simulators; from the previous limited exposure we had at OCS, I am not disappointed. COVE is an excellent learning tool. It allows you to challenge your ship handling skills in various situations that would not be practical [from a training aspect] if done at sea. For instance, transiting at night in a high-traffic shipping lane. The fact that the trainer is high fidelity, provides no safety concerns to actual ships, and can be stopped and reset makes it an invaluable tool for junior SWOs to try, most likely fail due to the level of challenge and safely learn. Also, the COVE session is setup so that the student-to-instructor ratio is four to one. This allows the instructors to clearly focus on each student’s performance, give advice, help us understand mistakes and provide guidance on how to improve.

I know that everything we learn at BDOC is just the tip of the iceberg, but, thanks this course, I think I am getting a better understanding on what I need to know to be a better naval officer on my ship, and of course a better surface warfare officer. I don’t expect the pace of the course to slow down going forward; if anything, I expect it will increase. I’ve been told by prior graduates that ship life is also fast paced so I’m glad I’m getting used to it now. Only one more month left of BDOC until graduation. At that time, I’ll be back to give my final thoughts on the SWOS BDOC experience. Until next time.

Inside the Basic Division Officer Course, Part 1

My name is David Glaser and I’m a brand new ensign, fresh out of Officer Candidate School (OCS), and headed to Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC). (Cue to rest of the group- “Hi David”).With the recent changes to the Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pipeline, I spent two months at the commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters, until the next BDOC class was ready to kick-off. I was asked by the staff to create a few blog posts before, during and after BDOC to quell perceptions, enlighten future SWO candidates headed to BDOC on rumors vs. reality, and update fleet SWOs on what the BDOC curriculum offers now.

In my BDOC preparations, I spent time talking with the current BDOC students and current SWOs. They overwhelming said that for many new SWOs the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Rules of the Road (ROR) is the biggest learning curve to overcome. Knowing this and knowing I prefer reading from hard copies, I bought the USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook. I also found that there are resources on the USCG website, such as PDFs, practice tests and other resources. As well, there’s an E-DIVO app that has practice tests.

Conning Officer Virtual Environment simulator at SWOS Det. San Diego

While I am preparing for ROR, I am also excited for the hands-on learning, particularly the Conning Officer Virtual Environment (COVE) simulator. Since OCS has a COVE, we were able to get a few simulator lessons, which I found incredibly valuable as both a visual learner and future SWO. The COVE allows students to simulate being a conning officer, as well as create various navigation challenges – from man overboard to advoiding mines. I am excited to see the full capabilities of the COVE at BDOC!

USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) General Quarters Drill in Atlantic OceanThrough my years of study, I’ve read stories of sailors fighting the ship; using their training to save themselves, their ship, and their shipmates. For this reason, I have an appreciation for the Damage Control (DC) training I received at OCS and think the DC training I will receive at BDOC will be invaluable to my future shipboard tour. I believe in practical training and the muscle memory that develops from it. I hope BDOC gives me a chance to experience multiple reps at the fire and wet trainers.

I’m eager to learn and get on the path toward becoming a Surface Warfare Officer. BDOC allows me, the student, to focus my own professional development without all the daily distractors of ship life.  I’ll be back in a month or so to give the SITREP on what I’ve learned up to that point. Until next time.

Surface Force Standardizes Experience Thresholds for Watchstanders

As part of the Surface Warfare Community’s effort to best develop, assess, and sustain watchstander proficiency, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Brown signed the new Surface Warfare Watchstander Proficiency Requirements Instruction, Nov. 13.

The instruction establishes the minimum requirements for watchstanders to attain qualification and maintain proficiency in the roles of Tactical Action Officer (TAO), Officer of the Deck (OOD), Combat Information Center Watch Officer (CICWO), Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW), Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), Conning Officer (CONN), and Combat Systems Officer of the Watch (CSOOW).


170816-N-FP878-018 ROTA, Spain (Aug. 16, 2017) Cmdr. Timothy Moore, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), mans the bridge while the ship returns to Rota, Spain, for a scheduled maintenance period. Donald Cook is forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, conducting a patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold/Released)

The guidance supports the Navy’s objective to reinvigorate an assessment culture by providing ships’ commanding officers with clear parameters to track watchstanding proficiency requirements for the stations identified.


181125-N-JI086-098 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Nov. 25, 2018) Lt. TJ Goss stands watch in the combat information center aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), Nov. 25, 2018. Donald Cook, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its eighth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

This is a positive step toward consistently producing high quality watchstanders and represents the ongoing innovation and improvement required to continue to control the sea and own the fight.


130526-N-KB052-163 PHILIPPINE SEA (May 26, 2013) Lt. John Mantone uses an alidade in the pilot house of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). Shiloh is assigned to Commander, Task Force 70 and is forward deployed to Yokosuka to support security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class N. Ross Taylor/Released)

The instruction standardizes the path of accountability for maritime professionals across the Surface Fleet by defining the minimum watchstanding proficiency requirements onboard Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF) ships after initial qualification process and establishes minimum requalification policies for qualified watchstanders to maintain and regain qualification after a lapse of proficiency.

Along with setting the time and periodicity requirements for each shipboard watchstation qualification and requalification, the instruction provides the required formal classroom courses for each qualification.


181201-N-UX013-1058 SUEZ CANAL (Dec. 1, 2018) Sailors aboard the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) stand watch on the forecastle as the ship transits the Suez Canal. Jason Dunham is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

Building watchstander proficiency and maintaining high standards of performance is paramount to overall Surface Force readiness. The ability of watchstanders of all ranks and rates to perform as experienced watchstanders is a core skill of our profession. The new Surface Warfare Watchstander Proficiency Requirements Instruction, which is effective immediately, sets the foundation for maintaining the best, fastest, toughest and smartest Naval Surface Force.

Professional development of our Surface Warriors is a priority to drive toward a culture of excellence and deliver the Navy the Nation Needs. It is fully understood within the Surface Fleet that every commanding officer must prepare their ship, their crew and themselves for combat at anytime and anywhere.

Drive to a Culture of Excellence

Last month, Vice Adm. Rich Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific (CNSP), hosted the 2018 CNSP Commander’s Training Symposium (CTS) in San Diego. Representing all ship classes and shore commands in the Pacific Surface Force, nearly 100 Commanders and Commanding Officers (ranking from Lieutenant Commander to Captain) were in attendance, as well as the Commanding Officer (CO) of Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS), PERS-41 representation, and CNSP senior staff members.


Here are key take-aways post CTS from Vice Adm. Brown:

As the CO Goes, So Goes the Ship

“I value command above all else, and I implicitly trust each of you to lead well. But, with that trust comes incredible and unyielding responsibility and accountability.  My staff and I will work tirelessly to set the conditions for your success.”

Fostering a Culture of Excellence

“In the recent past, we operated with in a culture of compliance focused on process and doing what we MUST do. This was a necessary, but not sufficient, step toward revitalizing our seagoing ethos. Now we need to build on compliance and drive a culture of excellence focused on outcomes and doing what we SHOULD do to achieve operational and warfighting excellence.”

Readiness is About Lethality


“We’re not building ship readiness for readiness sake. We’re building readiness so it can be turned to lethality when and where our nation requires.  Everything we do in the Surface Force must ultimately support this purpose.”


Reinvigorating Mission Command

“Navy leadership is committed to returning to the principles of Mission Command that served the Navy and the nation so well in earlier conflicts. Achieving a culture of excellence is a prerequisite for the return of Mission Command.”

The symposium included a preview of the new Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual (SFTRM) set for promulgation this month. The SFTRM affords COs the opportunity to accomplish Tier 1 and 2 certifications ahead of schedule and enable them to work their crews toward high-end warfighting readiness prior to the Advanced and Integrated Phases. We want ships and crews to take advantage of this policy to grow the warfighting ethos and lethality in their ships.

Vice Adm. Brown plans to host another CTS in March 2019 in San Diego, focusing on warfighting and increasing the lethality of our Surface Force so we can Own the Fight!