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Surface Force Commander Discusses State of the Force

26 July 2021

From Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lauren Deal 

WASHINGTON - Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, discussed the state of the surface force and his four priorities for the next year during a media roundtable at the Pentagon, July 22, 2021. 

Moving forward, Kitchener’s four goals are to improve readiness of surface force ships, continue improving professional development, ensure warfighting capability and lethality, and develop and maintain the toughness of surface warriors. 

“We remain challenged with the number of missions and requirements that we have and the number of ships we apply those to,” said Kitchener.

To address this readiness challenge, Kitchener said his goal is to make more ships ready for tasking by finishing maintenance availabilities on time and focusing on Sailor self-sufficiency to increase a ship’s ability to finish planned and unplanned repairs. 

Recent Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual revisions give commanding officers more opportunities for at-sea proficiency training, increasing the efficiency of the basic phase training cycle. Additionally, the accelerated certification of afloat team training capitalizes on at-sea time, allowing ships the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency for evaluation while providing flexibility and more time to train at sea. 

Kitchener also discussed the professional development of surface warriors. As a learning organization and one that fosters a culture of excellence, he is committed to instilling an ethos of lifelong learning across the force. 

“As we develop our officers, we need a continuous program of assessment,” Kitchener said. He emphasized that this doesn’t just include tactics and maritime skills, but overall career development.

On the enlisted side, he pointed to the modernization of enlisted Surface Warfare training providing engineering, combat systems, navigation, and damage control training for surface enlisted ratings. An example is improvements to the Quartermaster (QM) rating which includes an eight-week “A”school and Voyage Management System (VMS) training course, a three-week journeyman-level course, and a robust, master-level, five-week assistant navigator course. 

Kitchener then spoke about warfighting.

He wants to maintain, create, and continue to build a competitive mindset where commanding officers understand the mission and are able to take calculated risks. Kitchener also discussed proactive training and integration of new technologies such as unmanned systems. 

Lastly, Kitchener talked about his focus on managing his people, which he considers to be the surface force’s most important resource. 

He notes that managing mental health and fatigue is challenging because so much is asked of Sailors, and there is no easy solution. However, keeping Sailors mentally and physically healthy contributes to readiness. He says his team is working hard to better balance personnel distribution. 

Kitchener says these priorities are all important and interrelated and have his full attention as he enters his second year in the seat as SWO Boss. 

“That all contributes to making ships ready for tasking,” said Kitchener. 

To find out more about the Naval Surface Force, visit www.surfpac.navy.mil

 

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