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NAVIFOR Public Affairs Office


IW is in Demand - iBoss Hosts Commanders Summit

by Jacky Fisher, NAVIFOR Public Affairs Office
30 December 2021 SUFFOLK, Va. – Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, commander, Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) hosted her first Commanders Summit since taking command in Suffolk, Va., Dec. 1 through 3. Approximately 150 civilian, officer, and enlisted leadership who answer administratively to NAVIFOR, as well as representatives of all aspects of the IW Community, attended.  An annual event, officer and enlisted triads from the 88 Information Warfare (IW) commands worldwide gather to exchange ideas, voice concerns, and chart the way forward for NAVIFOR and the Community.   

The overarching themes covered during the three-day summit were Operational topics; Man, Train & Equip issues; and rounding out the summit, Health & Welfare.

As iBoss and host for the 2021 summit, Aeschbach set the tone in her opening remarks.  "We need to get about the business of being a TYCOM (type command)," said Aeschbach.  "This conference is about us, NAVIFOR, as the IW TYCOM, and how we execute operations under the three fleet commanders for the delivery of IW capabilities across the fleet."

Aeschbach gave her perspective on the prevalence of IW Navy-wide.  "IW is vital to all mission areas of the Navy for daily and future operations," she said.  "It's impossible to execute any mission without it."   
Acknowledging the challenges of delivering reliable IW capability world-wide, the iBoss noted, "Competition is good for us; there are no lack of opportunities to excel," said Aeschbach.  "The challenge is keeping pace with the growing demand.  We can't deliver trained IW talent fast enough."

Rear Adm. Michael Vernazza, commander, Naval Information Warfighting Development Center, spoke to the current state of the Fleet Information Warfare Command, an IW Task Force, to be to be stood up in the Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), the largest theater of operations.  In keeping with the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, that "successful modern sea control demands the all-domain power of our Navy and the Joint Force fighting adversaries in space, cyberspace, and along the electromagnetic spectrum," the Fleet Information Warfare Command (FIWCPAC) will greatly assist with delivering this expectation.  According to Vernazza, "When FIWCPAC is fully functional it will have the capability to plan, synchronize, and execute full-spectrum multi-domain information warfare."

Day one rounded out with three panels:  IW Shore Commanders, facilitated by Rear Adm. Gene Price, vice commander, NAVIFOR; Force Generation with NAVIFOR's N3 Fleet Operations department; and POM, or Program Objective Memorandum, Cycle Q&A, supported by Mr. Terry Parham, NAVIFOR's IW Programs & Requirements. 

Aeschbach opened day two with her discussion on TYCOM Updates and Priorities. 

Following her presentation, Aeschbach opened the floor for Q&As.  Capt. Kelvin McGee, commanding officer, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Bahrain, took the opportunity to voice his concern about enlisted IW Sailor distribution, which dovetailed on one of Aeschbach's top -priorities - Manning.  McGee shared his observation of the challenge of the sea / shore rotation cycle for first class petty officers since taking command. 

Afterwards, McGee said, "This summit gave IW senior leaders a platform to directly address the admiral and her staff about what concerns us out in the fleet.  As leaders, one of those concerns is the responsibility of setting up our junior Sailors for success, which directly leads to retention."

Capt. Harold Cole, NAVIFOR's Chief of Staff, spoke of a new program established this year, the IW Summer Cruise Program for the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) midshipmen, designed to better prepare IW officers of the future as they progress through their academic training and then join the fleet.  IW leadership and junior officers who engaged with the midshipmen highlighted the pivotal role IW plays in support of strategic competition, fleet design, and Distributed Maritime Operations.    

Cole also spoke to the potential of including Reserve Officer Training Command (ROTC) midshipmen in upcoming IW summer cruises.  “In addition to requesting a few billets be set aside for
ROTC midshipmen, we’re also considering extending the program from two to three blocks allowing more mids total to participate and still keep each group size to around 20 people,” said Cole. 

Pay issues, facilities military construction, manning challenges, and Ready Relevant Learning were part of the day two discussions.  NAVIFOR's Force Master Chief Dave Twiford also held a breakout discussion with Command Master Chiefs and Senior Enlisted Leaders at the end of the day.  

Health and Welfare topics commenced the final day with Cole delivering a poignant reminder for the need for rigorous fire safety preparedness and training ashore by recounting the Kamiseya Fire that occurred on Sept. 24, 1965, in which 12 service members perished as they tried to save the facility.  Other safety topics ranged from active shooter to flooding on shore-based watch floors.

Before the working lunch break, Aeschbach outlined the NLDF / I&D – Navy Leader Development Framework / Inclusion & Diversity - that encompassed all aspects of officer community management, enlisted detailing matters, and the civilian workforce.  Detailing requirements, workplace stresses, destructive behavior, individual augmentee, community force numbers, and best practices were a part of her in-depth discussion. 

“Most of our IW force is projected from on-shore commands, but we also have an at-sea presence,” said Aeschbach.  “Community management across the board is a collaborative effort, stretching from Millington, Tenn., to OPNAV N1 and ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence); every designator and rating has a flag-level representative.”

Cmdr. Brian Jacobson, Recruit Training Command (RTC) Chaplain, spoke about Warrior Toughness, an initiative that was birthed at RTC with direct ties to deckplate Sailors.  With a holistic look at mind, body, and soul, one of the endgame goals of Warrior Toughness is to develop “a Sailor to take a hit and keep on fighting, perform well under pressure, and excel in the day-in and day-out grind,” according to Jacobson.

Closing out the summit was a medical panel led by NAVIFOR's Force Surgeon Capt. Kristie Robson.  Among topics discussed, Lt. Cmdr. Robert L. Torrison, NAVFOR Mental Health Counselor, spoke to the establishment of Military and Family Life Counseling, or MFLC, programs at the larger commands to better enable service members and their families to get help at the onset of an issue before it escalates.

In her closing remarks, Aeschbach encouraged the Commanding Officers (COs) to connect with NAVIFOR for assistance to more rapidly effect change when needed.  "We are here to help you, to take the big rocks out of your bags, so to speak, as COs so you can get back to your business of conducting operations." 

In summary, Aeschbach said, "We have to operate effectively and succeed in denied or challenged communication space.  This summit was an excellent step in the right direction to ensure the IW community continues to deliver assured command and control, enhanced battle space awareness, and integrated fires to achieve freedom of maneuver across all warfighting domains."

NAVIFOR’s mission is to generate, directly and through our leadership of the IW Enterprise, agile and technically superior manned, trained, equipped, and certified combat-ready IW forces to ensure our Navy will decisively DETER, COMPETE, and WIN.

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