The Crossroads of Special Operations

Thursday, June 17, 2021


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I want to provide you with information on our innovation efforts which will be highlighted internally and externally throughout the month of February.

As you may have read in the recently released National Defense Strategy (unclassified version at: https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf, innovation was a key theme for keeping our warfighting edge.

Next week, I will participate on a panel at AFCEA West in San Diego about how the armed forces can train their forces, develop new tactics and technologies, work with allies and partners and build better capabilities to compete in the “Grey Zone.”  Our ability to innovate, to think differently, to deliver capabilities at the speed of relevancy will directly impact our effectiveness in this area.

Nearly one year ago, we piloted a deliberate effort to realize the SECDEF’s guidance of exploiting Industry’s investment in technology to relentlessly pursue innovative and advanced operational capabilities at a greater speed relevant to the pace of technology and in order to outpace our adversaries.  This venture allowed us to clearly understand and take advantage of new DoD contracting and procurement authorities as well as learn how to maximize the utilization of DoD and SOCOM outreach-to-industry platforms such as DIUx and SOFWERX.

We’ve successfully learned, and applied, through trial and tribulation how to effectively make use of these and other new and emerging opportunities to rapidly bring Future Operational Concepts to the present. These ongoing efforts show promise to have exponential impacts on our capabilities to accomplish our mission in a more agile, lethal and sustainable manner.

Moving forward, we are committed to institutionalizing new processes and organizational structures to maintain our technological and capability overmatch, stay ahead of our adversaries, avoid strategic surprise, and provide unique solutions to our nation’s most challenging security needs. This will take a highly collaborative and synchronized effort, federated across NSW, in order to EXPLORE, DEVELOP, and RAPIDLY REALIZE future operational capabilities.

Capt Christian Dunbar and Dr. Bruce Morris are leading the team to bring our enterprise-wide efforts to fruition; establishing repeatable processes, clear roles and missions, networked across NSW and the DoD, and developing the required organizational structures to support success across NSW to ensure our agility in the future.

We continue our focus on the long-term health and wellness of the force.  Thank you to those who have inquired about the programs we unveiled in November.  Below is an update on our cognitive health assessment initiative.

Future Former Frogmen (F3) is focused on ensuring the successful transition of our people into civilian life.  Led by Capt Todd Seniff, the next in-process review for F3 will take place in February so, while funding and staffing efforts are being reviewed now, we are on track to deliver a force-wide roll-out plan this spring.

It’s important to note that this program is not a replacement for Navy transition process (the onus for a transition program rests with each Service) but rather will provide a tailored process which will not only satisfy the Navy requirements, ensure medical records are prepared for the handoff to the VA, but also will provide custom career advice, civilian business mentorship, interview and resume skills, life coaching, medical case management, etc.

Regardless of the need, the F3 program is positioned to work with military assets and veterans’ resources alike to support even the most challenging transition needs with the aim to ensure NSW veterans are prepared, resilient, networked and ready to hit the ground as a civilian running in whatever endeavor they choose. The brotherhood does not end at the transition line from active duty but rather exists as a powerful support network in veteran life as well.

Lastly, as mentioned in my previous note, developing a communication strategy to recapture the NSW narrative generating positive content to counter negative situations has been a priority.  Below is a snapshot of thematic focal points for our conversations with the Force and with external audiences throughout the year. We must continue to communicate with purpose and intent while protecting our warfighters and their families.

The men and women of NSW continue to work hard, train hard and lead by example around the globe.  I’m humbled by the teamwork, courage and strength I see in our warriors each day.

Feel free to share this email and information with those we may have missed on this distro and I look forward to your feedback.

V/r Tim

Rear Admiral  Tim Szymanski

Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command

Naval Special Warfare CY 2018 Communication Strategy

Mission Statement: Naval Special Warfare will communicate with purpose and intent and own the Narrative, furthering the understanding of the “Quiet Professionals,” while protecting our capabilities, our operators, and our families.

Primary Theme for the Month

January                        Celebration of NSW Culture

February                      Innovation

March                          Reserve Forces in the Community

April                             Strengthening the Warfighter

May                              Community Partnerships

June                          Our History is our Heritage

July                           High Risk Training Awareness

August                          Allies and Partners

September                   Operational Excellence

October                    U.S. Navy Birthday

November                    Warrior Care Month

December                 NSW Priorities: A Year in Review


Themes were developed to support COMNAVSPECWARCOM Priorities of People, Resources and Mission in concert with Naval Special Warfare Enterprise Public Affairs officers.  

Themes provide a focal point for communication for the designated month and each theme should be incorporated as applicable to each command’s individual communication tactics (All Hands Calls, Internal Information, Photos, multi-media, external media, and community outreach). Expect other topics to be recognized and noted as applicable (those codified in statute and those designated by DoD and DON).

This strategy is a living document and will be adjusted as needed to ensure it accurately reflects COMNAVSPECWARCOM priorities and key communication principles.



“High-risk training and the operations we execute are inherently dangerous. We have a responsibility to take care of our people while they’re with us and, I believe this responsibility involves a moral obligation that continues beyond their service. This is the single most important thing we can do.”

— RADM Tim Szymanski, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command


Over time, our high-risk training and combat operations expose personnel to blows, sudden jolts or jarring movements; and/or blast exposure to the head from heavy weapon use, explosives, falls; or mishaps amidst motor vehicle, parachuting, and maritime training. These events can acutely or more chronically disrupt the function of the brain leading to mild, moderate, or severe injuries.

Neurocognitive Surveillance Defined:

Neurocognitive Assessment Tests (NCATs) are screening tools used to assess an individual’s cognitive health in specific neurologic domains, including memory, attention, processing speed, problem solving, visuospatial function, and impulse control.


Neurocognitive Health vs. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):

The Commander is moving away from the narrow description of TBI and looking to use the more encompassing term “neurocognitive health” or “neurocognitive impacts.”

Talking Points:

  • The intensity and duration of NSW training and operations may result in long term physical and psychological challenges that can affect operational performance and mission accomplishment.
  • NSW’s flagship weapon system and capital resource clearly remains our people.
  • NSW is committed to the long-term health and well-being of the Force and their families.
  • The focus of NSW’s Cognitive Surveillance Program will be a forward leaning, more pre-emptive approach to intervention where cognitive impacts are indicated.  More broadly, this initiative will seek to identify injuries earlier, track individual trends, and assist in developing comprehensive treatment plans to aid in the recovery of our service members. The end-state is to get NSW operators back into the fight while contributing to their long-term wellness.
  • The NSW Cognitive Surveillance Program will entail:  (a) initial baseline screening of all SEAL/SWCC operators within NSW by 30 April 2018; and (b) ongoing re-testing every two years to assess significant change.
  • Aggressive efforts include increasing awareness of potential issues and not waiting for perfect solutions.  Therefore, we will actively ‘drive the science’ through our blast exposure research efforts, ultimately looking to create a ‘dive-table-like’ approach to heavy weapons/breaching exposure levels and mitigation needs.
  • NSW will continue to seek and offer best practices as we develop our cognitive health emphases. We will rely on education, informed research efforts, and leadership support across the continuum of care to help mitigate the range of brain injuries and increase recovery rates for our members.
  • Along with the command’s emphasis on cognitive health, NSW is deeply committed to Cognitive Enhancement and Mental Performance Optimization initiatives that help to achieve greater operational effectiveness.


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