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Female Warfare Tactics Instructors lead warship Rushmore

23 March 2021

From SMWDC Public Affairs

Both the CO and XO of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) are members of SMWDC's Warfare Tactics Instructors program.
Lt. Cmdr. Tammi Ballinger, left, executive officer, and Cmdr. Emily Royse, commanding officer, lead USS Rushmore (LSD 47).
Cmdr. Emily Royse, right, and Lt. Cmdr. Tammi Ballinger pause for a photo aboard USS Rushmore (LSD 47). (U.S. Navy/Ensign Heather Brown)
Lt. Cmdr. Tammi Ballinger, left, executive officer, and Cmdr. Emily Royse, commanding officer, lead USS Rushmore (LSD 47).
Cmdr. Emily Royse, right, and Lt. Cmdr. Tammi Ballinger pause for a photo aboard USS Rushmore (LSD 47). (U.S. Navy/Ensign Heather Brown)
Photo By: Ensign Heather Brown
VIRIN: 210318-N-N2432-1003

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Cmdr. Emily Royse, an Amphibious Warfare (AMW) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) from South Pasadena, Calif., became the first female WTI to command at-sea in a commander command, when she assumed command of the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), Feb. 4, 2021.

Royse fleeted-up from her position as Rushmore’s executive officer, after being relieved by Lt. Cmdr. Tammi Ballinger, from Berea, Ky.; a fellow female graduate from the same October 2017 AMW WTI course.

“I am extremely proud to continue leading the crew of Rushmore to tactical excellence.” said Royse. “Building the tactical proficiency and warfighting skills of our Sailors is critical to maintaining the peak operational readiness required of all warships in support of the high-end fight.”

Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) accepts applications from top-talented junior Surface Warfare Officers, and develops them into expert tacticians in four surface warfare areas – AMW, Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Mine Warfare, and Anti-Surface Warfare/Surface Warfare.

“After completing the warfighting curriculum, we are assigned to WTI production tours where we hone our skills in billets at-sea or ashore,” said Ballinger. “During production tours we bring our skills to bear by providing advanced tactical training, developing tactics and doctrine, providing operational support, and crafting capability assessments.”

WTI candidates complete instructor and tactics training and 14-33 weeks of warfighting tactics training (dependent upon the warfare area). The 15-week AMW WTI course of instruction is focused on all aspects of AMW. Students apply amphibious doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures during the course through student-led briefings, practical applications, and open forum discussions. Students exercise tactics in synthetic training evolutions conducted at the Center for Surface Combat Systems’ Ship Self-Defense Systems trainer onboard Wallops Island, and one-on-one immersion training with Marine Corps personnel from each element of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force onboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. The immersive experience teaches students to plan and execute missions across the range of military operations with their Marine Corps counterparts – a crucial element of AMW mission success.

Royse completed her production tour at SMWDC headquarters in San Diego where she planned and executed the first Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise aboard USS Essex (LHD 2). Ballinger completed her production tour at Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS) located at Quantico, Va., where she facilitated the 7-week capstone table top exercise in Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) operations - utilizing the Marine Corps Planning Process to the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Navy students attending the 41-week EWS resident professional military education.

Royse noted that the road to success varies, but that it’s important to keep charging towards your goals no matter what they are, and if something interests you, pursue it with a passion. Maintain professional curiosity and do things outside of your comfort zone – and volunteer for every opportunity to broaden your expertise.

“All of the successful men and women I know in these positions [CO, XO, CMC] are passionate about their jobs and are intensely driven to succeed in both their personal and professional lives,” said Royse. “But they also realize it takes friendship, mentorship, and a strong support network to succeed. You can't do it alone; leverage the experience around you; ask questions, be bold, and don't let a fear of failure hold you back from trying."

Ballinger spoke about the importance of working hard, learning from your mistakes, and seeking guidance when needed. "My advice would be to seek out a successful mentor who is on a similar career path in the Navy as to what you wish to pursue,” said Ballinger. “Set professional goals for yourself, seek constructive feedback, and keep doing your best for the Navy in the billets you are assigned. Some day you could find yourself the next CMC, executive officer, and/or commanding officers of a United States warship."

SWOs interested in professional growth and development with opportunities to increase the Fleet’s readiness and lethality can email the WTI program managers at

SMWDC is located in California and Virginia and is focused on each of the four core-WTI surface warfare areas.

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