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CHIPS Articles: Prior Enlisted XO Helps IWTC Monterey Navigate Unique Times

Prior Enlisted XO Helps IWTC Monterey Navigate Unique Times
By By Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) 1st Class Amy Lavelle, Information Warfare Training Command Monterey - June 1, 2020
MONTEREY, Calif. – Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Monterey, located onboard the Presidio of Monterey, is the launching point for aspiring Navy linguists. It is here that Sailors have the rare opportunity to learn vital linguist skills in defense of our nation. Sailors here also face the unique challenge of mastering a foreign language while simultaneously integrating into Navy life and being molded into future warfighters.

In February 2020, IWTC Monterey welcomed a new executive officer (XO), Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Ayala. Ayala, a Navy meteorological and oceanography officer was cross-detailed into the billet historically occupied by cryptologic warfare officers. He brings with him a wealth of expertise, having come from an operationally demanding at-sea milestone tour, and staff duty with Amphibious Forces, U.S. 7th Fleet in Okinawa, Japan.

“This really is a wonderful opportunity to learn what goes on in other IW communities,” said Ayala.

Ayala comes to be XO of IWTC Monterey by an unusual path. He is prior enlisted, and served for 15 years in the enlisted ranks as an aerographers mate, four of those as a chief petty officer. He commissioned in 2008 as a meteorological/oceanographic limited duty officer aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), when it was homeported out of Yokosuka, Japan. He went on to attend the Naval Postgraduate School, earning a master’s degree in meteorology and oceanography.

“Serving as enlisted, I learned a lot,” said Ayala. “I learned the importance of hard work aboard my first ship, USS Tarawa (LHA 1), working as a food service attendant on the mess decks and then in the Chief’s Mess, painting and chipping–real deckplate stuff, plus learning how to become a weather observer. It’s also where I learned about my chain of command. Years later, having served as a chief, I have nothing but respect for the Chief’s Mess–they, along with the junior enlisted ranks are the backbone of the Navy.”

Ayala appears to be the right person at the right time, well suited for the demanding job of XO in the era of COVID-19. Upon arriving to IWTC Monterey, one of his first tasks was to develop a teleworking program, the usefulness of which would become apparent in the subsequent weeks. Teleworking has become routine for many staff at the command while shelter in place orders are in effect.

“One thing I learned early on was how critically important my relationship is with the triad, and how much we communicate with each other,” said Ayala. “We meet numerous times throughout the day, at least 3-5 times, whether it be in-person, by phone, or virtual. Working so closely allows us to attack any challenge as a unit.”

Having been onboard for a few months, Ayala has helped the command work through the unique issues associated with a global pandemic, always prioritizing the safety of students and staff. Now he is able to find his routine, one which shows no signs of slowing.

“My daily battle rhythm includes reviewing academic attrition, holding department head meetings, submitting PCS waivers, always making decisions that impact a lot of aspects of our Sailors’ lives,” said Ayala. “I have the blessing of leading initial-entry Sailors, fleet returnees, officers and civilians in a training command. Leading, guiding the Sailorization of Sailors as they learn critically-needed languages vital for the defense of our nation is truly humbling.“

“As a CO with a new XO onboard, it’s not often that someone earns your immediate trust and confidence so quickly,” said Capt. Michael Salehi, commanding officer of IWTC Monterey. “XO has done that and demonstrated early that he can handle the pressures of crisis action planning and execution, along with providing sage advice that only comes with years of experience and dedication to personal development. We are lucky to have him at the command.”

IWTC Monterey, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT), provides a continuum of foreign language training to Navy personnel, which prepares them to conduct information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations.

With four schoolhouse commands, two detachments, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT trains over 20,000 students every year, delivering trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.

For more about Information Warfare Training Command Monterey, visit https://www.public.navy.mil/netc/centers/ciwt/IWTCmonterey/Default.asx and http://www.monterey.army.mil/Service_Units/IWTC_Monterey.html, or find them on Facebook.

For news from the Center for Information Warfare Training domain, visit www.navy.mil/local/cid/, www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ciwt/, www.facebook.com/NavyCIWT, or www.twitter.com/NavyCIWT.

MONTEREY, Calif. (May 29, 2020) Official portrait of Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Ayala, Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) executive officer. IWTC Monterey, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training, provides a continuum of foreign language training to Navy personnel, which prepares them to conduct information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
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