US Navy Trains to Boost Its Theater ASW Proficiency

US Navy Trains to Boost Its Theater ASW Proficiency

This summer sixty-eight Navy reservists joined with Commander, Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare Forces, Third Fleet (CTF-34) June 24-28 and July 22-26 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to conduct a pair of self-contained synthetic training events designed to improve the Navy’s theater ASW capabilities.

“ASW is a perishable skill at the tactical and operational levels. It requires constant preparation and training,” says Cmdr. Scot Somes, operations officer for the Naval Mine & Anti-Submarine Warfare Command’s reserve detachment. “When the federal sequester led to cuts in the Navy’s exercise schedule we had to look for creative ways to maintain ASW proficiency.”

In a typical year CTF-34 conducts about one ASW exercise per month, allowing theater ASW watchstanders to coordinate with ships and aircraft at sea. These exercises are a key part of the qualification process. Junior personnel qualify as plotters and data-base managers. Senior petty officers and chiefs become watch supervisors. Officers strive to earn qualifications as theater ASW watch officers and battle watch captains.

Looking for a way to maintain ASW proficiency without real world assets, CTF-34 turned to synthetic training or war-gaming, a concept pioneered by the Naval War College in the 1880s. The CTF-34 staff developed a robust scenario, turning its conference room into a control center for the exercise scenario. To enhance realism and to maximize training effectiveness, the Submarine Force Reserve Component augmented the CTF-34 staff with more than forty qualified theater ASW watchstanders and about two dozen Sailors pursuing qualifications.

One of those watchstanders, Information Systems Technician 1st Class Mari Lynn Raptis from San Diego, a qualified watch supervisor, says her interest in submarines, surface ships, and airplanes makes theater ASW a natural fit. In the past three years she has supported six different ASW exercises. This one is rather unique.

“Although a synthetic exercise is not as exciting as one with real assets, I volunteered to support RESERVE BLACK because I feel it is important to develop the next generation of theater ASW warriors,” she said.

Reserve support is an essential element at each of the Navy’s four theater ASW commands, but Raptis and others note that CTF-34 is particularly effective at employing integrated watchteams. According to Electronics Technician 1st Class Jose Camberos, whose civilian job is at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, CTF-34 makes reservists feel like part of the team.

“It is great to be able to support exercises each year because we are able to learn new and more effective ways of doing things each time. For example, we are using a new data-base management system that is more capable and user friendly. But having experience on the previous system makes it much easier to learn the new one,” said Camberos.

Cmdr. Adam Hunt, CTF-34’s deputy chief of staff, states simply that his command couldn’t support extended ASW operations without reserve support.

“These exercises serve to close a critical gap in our annual training and qualification program, and the response has been very positive,” Hunt said. “Our active staff and reserve support teams worked very well together to provide quality classroom and practical training, culminating in a realistic scenario for the trainees that ran continuously for 96 hours. On the watch-floor, it very closely resembled a live training exercise in all respects.”

CTF-34, Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell, is responsible for the tactical command and control of assigned ASW assets during operations and exercises in the Third Fleet area of operations.

Press Release, July 29, 2013; Image: US Navy