The annual Surface Navy Association (SNA) West Coast Symposium was held on the waterfront at Naval Station San Diego on July 16, and provided attendees an update on some key operational and career developments important to the surface warfare community. Capt. Mark Johnson, president of the SNA San Diego Chapter, was the host and master of ceremonies for the symposium.
Capt. Warren Buller, commander of LCS Squadron 1, provided a comprehensive update on the LCS program, to include a detailed summary of the status of mission package development. LCS is a focused-mission combatant that can be configured for one of three missions – surface warfare; antisubmarine warfare and mine countermeasures – by installing the appropriate mission package. He pointed to the USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), currently in the middle of a 16-month deployment to Singapore and the U.S. Seventh Fleet, as exemplifying the value of a small, fast, agile combatant.
Rear Adm. Charles Williams, who is Commander, Logistics Group, Western Pacific/Commander, Task Force 73, and Commander, Navy Region Singapore, explained how LCS is making an impact on naval operations in the Asia Pacific region, and demonstrating its flexibility, speed and capability. Williams discussed how Fort Worth was able to play a major role in the Air Asia flight 8501 search and recovery efforts immediately after arriving at Singapore; operated as far north as Korea; completed scheduled maintenance in Japan, and participated in numerous CARAT exercises with partner navies throughout the region.
Williams pointed to Destroyer Squadron Seven in Singapore, as more than managing the deployed littoral combat ships, but also being a fully capable “on-call sea combat commander.”
“Singapore is no longer just a liberty port,” Williams said. “It’s a hub.” And, he said, Singapore is a great duty station to be assigned.
The Navy’s “warfighting first” mantra starts with the warfighters themselves, and how the Navy grows, improves and retains its people. Fittingly, several presentations provided insight into how and why the Navy is evolving surface warfare officer career development and assignment.
Lt. Cmdr. Mark Blaszczyk of LCS Squadron 1 provided an update on the Project Athena program, which encourages innovation, and allow junior officers and Sailors propose new and different ways of doing things. Much like TV programs like Shark Tank, individuals or teams can offer suggestions and solutions, and if selected by group, they can receive assistance and resources to conduct tests or experiments, build prototypes, or validate concepts.