Surface Warfare Officer
What is Surface Warfare?
Surface Warfare is the "traditional" community within the Navy that employs surface ships for the missions of forward naval presence, sea control, and projection of power ashore. Surface Warfare Officers (SWO) are the men and women who, as junior officers just out of college, lead the sailors within the many specialized divisions of a ship’s crew. Surface Warfare Officers are Navy officers whose training and primary duties focus on the operation of Navy ships at sea and the management of various shipboard systems. Their ultimate goal is to command a Navy surface ship.
What Ships Do Surface Warfare Man?
The surface fleet consists of many different types of ships, each contributing in their own unique ways to the success of the Navy’s mission as a whole.
- Cruisers (CG): protect the fleet from airborne threats by using their advanced AEGIS radars and anti-air missile systems, and also have the capability of striking targets ashore with their deck guns and long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.
- Destroyers (DDG): protect the fleet from surface and submarine threats; many also have AEGIS, as well as the capability to use their deck guns and Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike targets ashore.
- Frigates (FFG): small, tough convoy escort ships that provide anti-air and anti-submarine protection.
- Aircraft Carriers (CVN): home to over seventy aircraft, ranging from F/A-18 strike fighters, to EA-6B radar-jammers, and E-2C early-warning/command and control aircraft.
- Amphibious Ships (LHA/LHD/LPD/LSD): carry up to 2,000 Marines, and their equipment, vehicles, and supplies. The Amphibious Assault subtype, or LHA’s and LHD’s, double as small aircraft carriers that are home to various kinds of helicopters and the Harrier vertical take-off and landing jet fighter. The LHA’s, LHD’s, and LSD’s all carry modern, high-speed Landing Craft, Air-Cushion (LCAC) to ferry Marines and their gear ashore.
- Minesweepers (MCM): detect and clear naval mines from areas in which other ships soon will be operating.
- Patrol Craft (PC): small, speedy ships that patrol coastlines as well as insert and support SEAL special operations forces ashore.
- Littoral Combat Ship (LCS): The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in the coastal water battlespace. A fast, maneuverable and networked surface combatant, LCS provides the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions close to the shore such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.
Where are SWOs Stationed?
The Navy has many homeports for its surface fleet.
- Everett / Bremerton, WA – DDG, FFG
- Mayport, FL – CG, DDG, FFG
- Little Creek / Norfolk – CG, DDG, FFG, LCC, LHA/LHD, LPD, LSD
- Pearl Harbor, HI – CG, DDG, FFG
- San Diego, CA – CG, DDG, FFG, LHA/LHD, LPD, LSD
- Manama, Bahrain – MCM ** Rotational Crews
- Sasebo / Yokosuka, Japan – LHA/LHD, LPD, LSD, MCM, CG, DDG, FFG, LCC
What Can I Expect as My Initial Role as a SWO?
As a junior SWO, you will lead a division of sailors aboard one of the above listed types of ships. Immediately after graduating from college in the NROTC Program, you will report to your first ship as a Division Officer. Traditionally, Division Officer tours are 45-48 month "split tours" designed to provide individuals as much diversity as is possible in their background and experiences. Significant milestones during your initial sea tour are completing the Officer of the Deck (Fleet) and Surface Warfare Officer qualifications. These qualifications are designed to be completed within the first 18 to 21 months. During the first two tours, officers may be assigned to multiple departments to provide a diversified background and facilitate Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) and Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) qualification. Development of seamanship, war fighting skills, and effective leadership are key elements in these tours.
Understand the 45-48 month tours are split between two platforms with first between 27-30 months, the second 18-21 months. Generally your second tour will be in a department different from the initial tour. During the second tour, Division Officers are expected to complete Engineering Officer of the Watch qualification (if not already completed) and many will make significant progress towards qualifying as Tactical Action Officer.
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