Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) announced Lt. Aaron Van Driessche, an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI), as its 2019 Military Instructor of the Year (MIOY) at a ceremony onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola 23 Jan.
Van Driessche represented the Officer category in the MyNavy HR force development domain and rose through a number of competitions to represent the nation’s top achievers.
Van Driessche, one of over 8000 Navy and Marine Corps instructors is the first Surface Warfare WTI to achieve the honor of being selected as the United States Navy’s MyNavy HR domain top officer instructor.
Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, NETC commander, presented Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals to Van Driessche and the other MIOY category winners.
“As we recognize the outstanding contributions of these individuals, it is also fitting to reflect upon the critical role each of them plays in support of fleet readiness,” said Cozad. “Your hard work and professionalism produce the best Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen in the world. I truly appreciate your personal commitment in meeting the continuous and evolving needs of our Navy and Marine Corps team.”
Van Driessche graduated IAMD WTI class 18010 in 2018 as the “Top Tactician” before reporting to the Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS) Detachment San Diego for his WTI production tour. At CSCS, he leads the pre-deployment Advanced Warfare Training curriculum for all Aegis cruisers and destroyers assigned to U.S. 3rd Fleet. Appointed as the execution lead for the Combined Integrated Air & Missile Defense (IAMD) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Trainer (CIAT), Van Driessche became the U.S. Navy’s driving force in delivering the most sophisticated tactical training to the Surface community. In 2019 alone, his team trained more than 1,100 combat watchstanders and more than one third have since deployed worldwide.
“Aaron is a great example of positioning our WTI patch-wearers to make the most meaningful impact,” said Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC). “We are strategically detailing our community of WTI talent to fleet concentration areas and learning sites to provide the tactical training our combat teams deserve.”
Van Driessche also represents SWMDC during Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercises, missile exercises, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) development, and SMWDC curriculums like the Force Air Defense Officer (FADO) course.
“WTIs like Aaron will continue to lead a culture shift towards tactical excellence. Learning sites like CSCS are centers of gravity in that effort,” Robertson added.
“It’s an honor to be nominated among so many talented instructors across the Services,” said Van Driessche. “I am blessed to represent the collective effort of SMWDC and CSCS that together have spearheaded every effort to develop and deliver realistic and relevant tactical training. The Surface Navy remains charged with ‘turning readiness into lethality at a moment’s notice’. Our responsibility as Warfare Tactics Instructors is to ensure our deploying teams have the tools and talent to do just that.”
Van Driessche received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal in August 2019 in recognition for his ‘extraordinary heroism’ during 2017 rescue efforts immediately following the tragic USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collision.
“Chaos had a way of stripping us down to our barest instincts,” said Van Driessche. “Our most effective Sailors fell back onto the instincts they developed in training repetition. With nothing to fall back on, the only other human option is to feel lost and overwhelmed, but those young Sailors who valued training or had leaders who enforced a culture of training saved the ship. I won’t forget that, as a WTI, that’s the example I keep coming back to; the collision and damage control aftermath has affected the way I instruct more than anything else. Regardless of the curriculum, we have to make every training opportunity count and train like their ship will depend on it – only once those instincts are deep in our bone marrow can we say that the training mission is complete.”
SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and exists to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force across all domains. SMWDC headquarters is at Naval Base San Diego with four divisions in Virginia and California focused on IAMD, Anti-Submarine Warfare/Surface Warfare, Amphibious Warfare, and Mine Warfare.
SWOs interested in professional growth and development with opportunities to increase the Fleet’s readiness and lethality can email the WTI program managers at [email protected]