Navy, Marines Integrate Training to Prepare for High-End Fight
US Navy | May. 20, 2022
DAHLGREN, Va.: Maj. Diogenes Rosa-Garcia, USMC, is the first Marine to complete courses of instruction at Surface Combat Systems Training Command (SCSTC) AEGIS Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) onboard Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren and graduate as an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) in San Diego, May 20.
The U.S. Navy is providing realistic warfighter training that develops and improves joint interoperability and enhances the combat readiness of our joint forces at SCSTC ATRC.
“I arrived at SCSTC ATRC in September 2021 for the AEGIS Tactical Action Officer [ATAO] course,” Rosa-Garcia said. “At that time, I was an air defense planner for Marine Air Control Group [MACG] 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing [3DMAW]. The skillsets I achieved in this course were indispensable. The core objective was combat identification, the process of recognizing a threat and then pairing the best tactics to counter that threat.”
Rosa-Garcia’s graduation is part of a larger effort by the Marine Corps to include more Navy integration training, demonstrating how the branches can both benefit from working together.
“As part of the U.S. Marine Corps’ effort to implement Navy integration training into their pipeline, my schoolhouse has offered a variety of courses to our counterparts to better prepare both Sailors and Marines for an integrated surface maritime fight in the Pacific and elsewhere,” explained Capt. Russ Sanchez, commanding officer, SCSTC ATRC. “Training together also provides us the opportunity to join forces and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges and achieve full tactical and technical capability of our Navy systems so we are ready for the high-end fight.”
Mr. Jeff Noordyk, SCSTC ATRC’s director of training, says the ATAO nine-week course is approximately 80 percent lab time, which includes the Reconfigurable Combat Information Center Trainer (RCT). The trainer was funded by Director, Surface Warfare’s (OPNAV N96) program of record, Surface Training Advanced Virtual Environment-Combat Systems (STAVE-CS), which was introduced in 2015 as a means to provide better quality training resulting in more rapid qualifications of Sailors. The RCT provides students with realistic, relevant and complex scenarios in a threat environment that they may face at sea.
“In the RCT, we focused on four watchstations aboard an Aegis Baseline 9 weapon system-configured ship to include tactical action officer, anti-surface warfare coordinator, anti-air warfare coordinator and ballistic missile defense officer,” Noordyk explained. “Every watchstation has a mentor who has conducted real world operations in the specific areas. The watchteam, with supporting watchstations, occupied by the rest of the class, is then placed in several tactical scenarios between near-peer competitors with the objective to defend and fight back. Students are taught tactics that they must learn how to integrate and then adapt them in a fight.”
Rosa-Garcia’s favorite aspect of the course was time in the RCT.
“We interacted as a crew and rotated through each position so you learned how to operate as a decision maker, but also how to follow orders,” he explained. “You gained an understanding of the chain of command and how decisions were made and then executed.”
The beginning of the course was challenging at first for Rosa-Garcia. He had no Aegis background and like every military branch, the Navy has its own set of acronyms.
“Hands-on time in the labs provided me a better understanding,” he said. “I started to become more confident and in turn, began to excel.”
As a Marine, Rosa-Garcia understands how to adapt and overcome any obstacle on land but the ATAO course provided him the maritime perspective that he will need to fully execute his future missions.
“I’ve already recommended this course to my chain of command,” he said. “Marines will learn how the Navy operates at sea and understand maritime capabilities we need to defeat an enemy. Most importantly, we will learn how to apply these new skills with the ones we already have and become a stronger integrated force.”
After graduating in November 2021, Rosa-Garcia returned to MACG 38. He was then notified by his command that he would be enrolling in the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center’s (SMWDC's) IAMD WTI program in January 2022. Part of the program took place at SCSTC ATRC and SMWDC’s IAMD Division back in Dahlgren.
“I was excited to return to Dahlgren,” he said. “I would be the first Marine to go through the IAMD WTI program.”
Rosa-Garcia, however, soon realized this course was different from any other training he completed in his 19 years as a Marine.
The program consists of 15 weeks of rigorous training that includes classroom instruction with SCSTC ATRC, tactical training, mission planning and on-site visits with the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) and various Army and Air Force commands. SMWDC’s IAMD WTI program focuses on the Navy’s most cutting-edge tactics and technologies in the air defense domain and within the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) mission set.
“It was the most challenging academic course in my career thus far,” Rosa-Garcia explained. “It focused on the operational level of the BMD mission with an emphasis on tactical simulations; the PBED [Plan, Brief, Execute, and Debrief] process; TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures]; and instructor skills. It also fine-tuned my time management skills. There were numerous requirements to meet and I quickly adapted in order to meet required timelines.”
Lt. Cmdr. Adam Galazka, SCSTC ATRC’s IAMD WTI course supervisor and an IAMD WTI, says to apply and sharpen the warfighting skills they are learning in the classroom, students need to spend time in the Technology Insertion (TI) 16 lab. The TI16 is the U.S. Navy’s approach to upgrade combat systems across the surface fleet, including cruisers and destroyers, as well as aircraft carriers and amphibious vessels.
“Training in the TI16 lab is a vital part of a WTI’s education,” Galazka explained. “They learn, hands-on, how to integrate different capabilities into the Aegis weapon system, such as BMD, and how to detect and track incoming targets at sea level and on the surface of the water for either gun fire engagement or navigation. Due to the challenging dynamics of this training, it also provides them the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills and learn how to effectively deter and counter any adversary as a team.”
Rosa-Garcia’s favorite aspects of the WTI program were the ability to share experiences and create strong bonds with his fellow WTIs.
“This course built a strong network of warfighters,” he said. “Students had to rely on each other because of the complexity of the curriculum and we quickly learned that to be a successful WTI, you need to work and grow as a team.”
Rosa-Garcia graduated on 20 May and proudly joined his Navy counterparts as a top tactician and warfighting expert. He also became the assistant operations officer at MACG 38.
“I recommended the WTI program to my community of Marines, however, pre-requisite knowledge and Aegis training are critical for success in the program,” he said. “We need to have some background experience to be active participants - we need to be able to enhance the Navy’s IAMD fight. This program will benefit us by helping us execute our mission better by understanding ship capabilities and mission sets, how our operational systems complement each other and will provide more options on how to employ our forces.”
Rosa-Garcia says that training at SCSTC ATRC was overall an awesome experience. At first, he felt outside his element, but was immediately welcomed by the Aegis community.
“The high-fidelity training systems were impressive – I felt like I was on an actual ship,” he said. “The instructors’ dedication to the students was noteworthy. Expectations were very clear from the start and the support was always there to meet those expectations. In addition, I formed relationships that have continued outside the classroom. Thank you Capt. Sanchez, instructors and my peers for your much needed mentorship. It means a lot to me, my chain of command and the Marine Corps as a whole to have this opportunity to train with the Navy so Marines and Sailors are ready to fight and win as an integrated force.”
SCSTC AEGIS Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) is a part of Surface Combat Systems Training Command (SCSTC). SCSTC ATRC provides Sailors with the knowledge, ability, and skill to operate and maintain the AEGIS Combat System through timely, effective, and integrated training delivered across Sailors' careers. SCSTC ATRC also provides Officers the knowledge, ability, and skill to operate, employ, and assess the readiness of the AEGIS combat system aboard surface warships.