Last year, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) launched a pilot program to take fleet Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTIs) and give them the academic theory behind those tactics to improve their warfighting capabilities. All four of the students graduated from the WTI Scholar program this summer and are taking their newfound knowledge back to the Fleet.
WTIs, pronounced “witties,” are a sub-group of officers trained by the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) to conduct advanced tactical training, doctrinal development, assessments of shipboard at-sea training, and serve in critical operational billets in one of four specialized areas – anti-submarine and surface warfare, amphibious warfare, mine warfare, and integrated air and missile defense warfare.
The idea of the WTI Scholars Program began when leaders from SMWDC saw a return on investment from officers in the WTI program who already had an NPS master’s degree or were earning their degrees through NPS’ varied distance learning programs.
One key educational challenge facing WTIs is that many of them had to forgo the opportunity to obtain graduate education due to the WTI career path constraints precluding in-residence educational tours. NPS stepped in and shortened certain curricula, allowing WTIs to obtain an accelerated master’s degree in order to get back to the fleet in a reasonable time to fill key billets. The price for this is the elimination of certain milestones that a full-length resident NPS curriculum typically provides, such as Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I certification and a subspecialty code, but the core master’s degree requirements are still met in all nine “WTI Scholars” offerings.
“This is an excellent opportunity for us to further our education in a way that benefits both us and the Navy,” said Navy Lt. Matt Mitchelmore, a graduate from NPS’ Graduate School of Defense Management. “We get to take certain topics that are related to our degree, but for the rest of the required credits, we got to take classes that interested us, like organizational behavior or leadership classes that will benefit the fleet in other unique ways.”
Navy Lt. Christopher Chavez, another student from the pilot program, said that the WTI Scholar Program was an excellent opportunity, and thinks that every Navy officer that is eligible and able to take this course should do just that.
“If I met anybody in the same situation as I was, I would tell them that it was a perfect opportunity,” said Chavez. “This program can give you the best of both worlds. You can get excellent, tangible knowledge, and then you can also get some time yourself to get a master's in-residence at NPS. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”