In this file photo, an MH-53E Sea Dragon from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14 hovers to recover training sea mines as USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) operates in the distance during exercise RIMPAC in July. (U.S. Navy)

SAN DIEGO - Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet recently certified Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center’s (SMWDC) Mine Warfare Division as the Theater Mine Warfare Commander (MIWC).

“Ensuring sea lines of communication remain open is a vital part of the Navy’s mission in all of our areas of operation,” said Rear Adm. Dave Welch, commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center.

“The capability that our deployable mine warfare battle staff provides is an essential element to the Navy’s support of the National Defense Strategy and our certification affirms that we are ready to fully provide that capability.”

Welch, who also serves as the Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander, leads the deployable Mine Warfare Battle Staff, now certified to lead complex mine warfare missions in all numbered fleet areas of operation. The Mine Warfare Battle Staff completed final stages of MIWC certification during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in the Southern California area of operations earlier in the summer. The biennial certification exercise assesses the staff’s readiness to conduct its global mission. During RIMPAC, Welch served as the RIMPAC MIWC as Commander Task Force (CTF) 177.

The MIWC certification exercise brought 26 units and approximately 1,100 personnel representing the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand together under the MIWC. The partner nations conducted advanced mine warfare operations including mine countermeasure operations throughout RIMPAC.

“This is a significant accomplishment for our Mine Warfare Battle Staff, and more importantly, our Navy team,” said Welch. “The RIMPAC exercise was an ideal event for us to challenge our staff in an environment where we are able to practice our capability to rapidly adapt to a dynamic environment in conjunction with our partner nations.”

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 Sea Combat, Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Amphibious Warfare and Mine Warfare.