Home » Budget Industry » Navy Stands Up Naval Surface Group WESTPAC to Train, Certify Forward-Deployed Ships

Navy Stands Up Naval Surface Group WESTPAC to Train, Certify Forward-Deployed Ships

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, conducts a media availability at Changi Naval Base on Aug. 22, 2017. US Navy Photo

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift stood up a new organization that will oversee the training and certification of forward-deployed surface forces.

The Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet Detachment Naval Surface Group Western Pacific was formally stood up on Tuesday, after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson first announced the interim detachment in a Sept. 19 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The detachment will be based out of Japan and will determine if the Japan-based warships are ready for operations.

“U.S. 7th Fleet (C7F) will assign ships that are among forward deployed naval forces-Japan (FDNF-J) to CPF Det NSGWP during maintenance availabilities and follow-on training, and CPF Det NSGWP will support C7F by making those ships ready for operational tasking,” according to a Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) news release.

“I am forming CPF Detachment Naval Surface Group Western Pacific to address an organizational gap in FDNF-J that allowed a culture to grow myopically focused on operations to the detriment of readiness,” Swift said in the news release.
“CPF Det NSGWP will consolidate authorities to oversee the training and certification of surface ships forward deployed to Japan.”

Capt. Rich Dromerhauser will lead the organization and be most immediately responsible for manning, training and equipping the FDNF-J surface ships. He and his staff will clear a ship for operations or order it to go through remedial training to address any readiness deficiencies he finds.

“This is about taking care of our entire Navy family and ensuring that they have the resources and tools to get the job done right,” he said in the Navy news release.
“I am here to protect the most precious resource we have – time; time for the maintenance and modernization of our systems, and time for the focused training that builds the confidence and competence to fight and win at sea.”

Though the detachment will report to Swift for now, the group will eventually move to Commander of U.S. Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR) Vice Adm. Tom Rowden’s portfolio, along with other surface force personnel and training issues. The interim detachment will also eventually be replaced by a permanent Commander of Naval Surface Forces Group Western Pacific.

“CPF Det NSGWP will be my eyes and ears on the ground here in the Western Pacific,” Rowden said in the news release.
“Not only to consider the operations we have to execute, but also to ensure we understand how we are going to properly generate the readiness we need.”

This organization was created in the aftermath of four FDNF-J surface force incidents this year – one grounding and three collisions, two of which killed a total of 17 sailors. This abnormal spike in major incidents at sea led CNO Richardson to take a number of steps, including the creation of Ready for Sea Assessments that have already begun for Japan-based ships.

Richardson said at the September hearing that the Navy “commenced Readiness for Sea Assessments (RFSA) for all ships assigned to Japan, to inspect and assess watchstander proficiency and material readiness to ensure ships are able to safely navigate, communicate and operate. Immediate remediation will be conducted for ships found deficient, and they will not be assigned for operational tasking until they are certified to be ready.”

SURFPAC spokesman Cmdr. John Perkins told USNI News on Oct. 18 that eight ships had already completed the assessment and one more was undergoing the assessment at the time. He declined to say whether any had failed the assessment or been found deficient in any particular warfare area.

“The initial focus is on the cruisers and destroyers forward deployed to Japan and then expanding to other ships operating in the Western Pacific, followed by the rest of the force,” he said.
“Due to operational security, we will not discuss the number of ships that have failed or passed this assessment. These assessments focus on the foundational skills and verify ship’s ability to safely navigate, communicate and operate, as well as assess critical mission areas.”

The assessments span two days – the first day is conducted in port and focuses on manning, qualifications, watch bills, training plans and equipment checks, Perkins said, with the second day covering at-sea evolutions, propulsion and navigation drills and watch team proficiency tests.

In the aftermath of the two fatal collisions, the Navy has also fired eight officers, implemented new sleep requirements for surface ship crews, conducted an operational pause to go over fundamentals, and ordered two reviews, one of which is set for release this week.

  • JohnByron

    Deficiencies in training and readiness should inflict some pain on the ISICs and their staffs.

  • John Locke


    The article would have one think there are no training resources in WestPac

    Did ATGWP go away?

    Is CPF Det NSGWP in addition to ATGWP?

    Will a review of the Surface Force Readiness Manual be in order?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Duane

      The article does not suggest that. The article simply states there is a new group dedicated to ensuring the operational readiness of our forward deployed forces in the West Pac area.

      This is somewhat analagous to nuclear submarine readiness assessments that have been part of operating our nuke boat fleet for generations. The nuke boat COs, officers, and crew members took those assessments very seriously, as in a failure would be instantly career ending. There’s a lot to be said for having folks who are not in the direct chain of command, but essentially reporting at the very highest level of command in the Navy, coming in and looking at everything with a microscope, from training and qualification records to maintenance records to conducting serious drills at sea. We can’t rely on the chain of command for that, because those in the chain have a conflict of interest that is unavoidable.

      • John Locke

        It certainly does suggest that. The whole debacle is about a breakdown in training. There is no mention of existing training resources in WestPac and to not at least mention ATGWP is an odd omission or plain ignorance of it on the part of the author.

        • Curtis Conway

          And ATGWP OBVIOUSLY is deficient and under review, which is also not mentioned.

        • Duane

          The whole debacle is NOT only about training.

          Training deficiencies are a symptom, not a cause, of poor command performance.

          This new group is NOT a training group. It is an assessment group.

          Do you know the difference between “training” and “assessment”?

          It is equivalent to the difference between attending class lectures and participating in training exercises, and taking the final exam. These are the ‘final exam” crew. They review what they observe, report it up the chain, and those observations form the basis for everything from whether to relieve a CO and his senior subordinates,or not… to defining what training deficiencies exist, and identifying systemic findings that are common to multiple commands, and make systemic recommendations accordingly.

          • John Locke

            Obviously you don’t know what ATGWP does.

          • Duane

            You don’t know anything.

          • wilkinak

            Exactly, ATG hasn’t actually trained anyone in years. They supposedly ‘train the trainers’. They obviously haven’t been doing a great job at that.

          • kaigun2

            Exactly. That whole “train the trainers” crap was when everything started going downhill.

      • OldHickory21

        Absolutely, folks outside the normal chain of command……like Insurv….it’s the only way you can trust in the assessment.

  • Dave Perry

    First, I know that CDS-15 got sacked over this. But isn’t what the article describes the job of the DESRON commander for the O-5 commands, and CTF-70 for the cruisers? As opposed to standing up some new body, wouldn’t it make sense to make those organizations functional?

    Good question below, what about ATGWP? They were still around when I was on JSM from 01-03. Did that CO get sacked?

    I guess the main point of my post is if the DESRON system is broken wrt certifying our ships for navigation, why create a brand new organization (which oh by the way seems to be C7F specific.) Will a similar body be created for CONUS based ships?

    This solution doesn’t make any sense to me unless they are saying that the current method for certifying ships is so broken it should ALL go away.

    • OldHickory21

      I think you answered your own question in the last para.

      • Dave Perry

        Then why just impose something for seventh fleet?

        • OldHickory21

          Seventh Fleet could just be the canary in the coal mine Dave, perhaps due to their higher optempo…….I bet they are going to be taking a deep dive Fleet wide in due time.

  • Brent Leatherman

    I hope these guys actually do the right thing and aren’t just another group loading more work on the shoulders of the ship’s crew…..

  • Ed L

    Hopefully it will be like the old RefTra we use to do. Doing Refresher for the Experience Sea Detail and alongside manuvering Watch Officers. Which I remember as being the Core/Teachers for new officers to learn with the eventual goal of Qualiying as SWO.

    • Papasan Pauly

      Very well said. We saw them put you Boys through the paces back then and it always paid off when we put to sea on routine WestPacs. Our Sailors and Marines are only as good as their training is realistic and real time. We cannot allow these senseless losses of our Finest to continue. Maybe now Navy will stop looking at Sailors as expenses and start valuing them as our greatest asset which they’ve always been. I remember an old Master Chief telling his Sailors at morning muster “We can replace equipment and even this ship but I can’t replace you. Be safe and think today.” Navy sure could use that old style Naval Leadership today.

  • NoMoreMrNiceGuy

    Same old BS. Evaluating, and not doing training. Have them define training. Just do nothing assholes who are now pissed off that they have to move to Japan. Get to put patches on clean coveralls. Useless. Should cycle the crews thru dry side training and have real life equipment. Or CGI. Hands on. Without the pressure of these jerks.

  • Pete Novick

    Huh? New organization?

    Commander Naval Surface Group Western Pacific, (COMNAVSURFGRU WESTPAC), was originally formed during the Vietnam War and headquartered at US Naval Station Subic Bay, Philippines. It was lead by a 2-star admiral, who was dual-hatted as Commander Task Force Seven Five (CTF-75), with a dual reporting chain: (1) as COMNAVSURFGRU WESTPAC to Commander Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet (in San Diego), and (2) as CTF-75 to Commander Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.

    As CNSG WESTPAC, the command was a type commander, responsible for training and maintenance of surface ships, (less aircraft carriers). As CTF-75, the command was an operational command subordinate to COMSEVENTHFLT.

    In the early 1990’s the Philippine Senate tried to hold the United States hostage by demanding the US double the amount of money it paid annually for basing rights at Subic Bay (Navy) and Clark Air Base (Air Force).

    The US government strongly opposed the increase, and in June 1991, when Mt. Pinatubo volcano erupted, rendering Clark Air Base useless, the United States unilaterally decided to remove all US military forces from the Philippines.

    COMNAVSURFGRU WESTPAC/CTF-75 eventually “went away” formally, as the staff gradually atrophied, and the billets were absorbed in the rest of the Navy’s command structure in the Western Pacific.

    The idea that this is a “new organization” does not comport with the history of US Navy organization and operations in the western Pacific.

  • CumlaudE89

    We don’t need another training or assessment team!!! We have more than enough to go around from ATG, ISIC, TSRA I through V, C5RA, ERAT, other periodic inspections/training and the occasional TMI and INSURV! What we need is quality training from quality trainers.
    Instead of focusing on shipboard Sailors, they should focus their attention first on those who are training these Sailors. To learn, you have to learn from the learned! Need to start on proper screening for ATG, ISIC and others responsible for training and assessments/certifications. Select the best of the best instead of treating the billet as just another shore duty for those who want to homestead in Japan and other concentration area. Honestly, some of these “trainers” we have now spend more quality time in smoking area than actually getting Sailors ready. It’s elementary, bad INPUT equals bad OUTPUT. Sailors are now relegated to mere System MONITORS. They don’t know what to do when a situation demands controlling or immediate actions and the system’s algorithm is not working to do the required action automatically for them!

  • Papasan Pauly

    Seems common sense tells us Navy should really be looking at revamping the entire current training system without creating yet another command. Let’s get back to putting free thinking sea faring into our Sailors rather than making them slaves to technology. Best way to accomplish this is by enhancing what we already have based on real world blue water experience rather than computer generated models designed by civilian consultants. Not knocking consultants because everyone brings something to the table. Just seems rather odd Navy has moved away from listening to their own Old Salt Sailors who know exactly what they’re doing.