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CHIPS Articles: Talking with Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter

Talking with Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter
Commander, Navy Warfare Development Command
By CHIPS Magazine - October-December 2008
Rear Adm. Carpenter received her commission through Aviation Officer Candidate School, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., in 1977 and was designated a naval aviator in July 1979. When the admiral went into the woman's pilot program, it was only a few years old; she was the 31st woman designated. Graduating at the top of her class, she was assigned as the Navy's first Selectively Retained Graduate Instructor Pilot (SERGRAD) in the T-44 aircraft at VT-31, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. Throughout her career, Carpenter accumulated 3,500 military flight hours.

Rear Adm. Carpenter left active duty and accepted a Reserve commission in February 1985. Remaining highly active in the operational Reserve force, she has accepted numerous recalls to active duty and led four Navy Reserve commands at the commander and captain level.

Rear Adm. Carpenter's flag assignments include: Deputy Commander, Navy Region Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla. from October 2004-September 2005; acting director, OPNAV N31 (Information, Plans, Security Division) from April 2005-May 2005; vice director, Standing Joint Force HQ (SJFHQ), U.S. Joint Forces Command from December 2004-September 2006; and Deputy Commander, 2nd Fleet, from October 2006-June 2008.

Carpenter was nominated for appointment to Rear Admiral (upper half) on Feb. 13; her promotion ceremony was Aug. 8, the day after her interview with CHIPS. CHIPS met with the admiral in NWDC's temporary spaces in building N-30 on Naval Station Norfolk.

CHIPS: Can you talk about how NWDC has contributed to the change from conventional large force-on-force warfare to the irregular warfare now ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: The Navy has conducted irregular warfare for centuries. One of the beauties of how the Navy operates is that we are highly flexible and adaptable in our force packaging, and we have continued to be so in the global war on terror.

For instance, the Navy has recently developed a concept called Global Fleet Station which has provided tremendous benefits in the area of humanitarian operations and direct engagement with populations facing challenged societies, both politically and economically.

We have had Navy personnel conduct the full range of direct support efforts, including dental and medical support. We have had the Civil Engineer Corps go in and develop potable water systems and schools. Nation building helps to thwart areas and conditions where instability might arise or unstable forces may attempt to gain control.

We have conducted anti-piracy operations for years, most recently including a number of operations off the coast of the Horn of Africa and Somalia to help with the anti-piracy efforts there. We do quite a lot of anti-piracy operations with coalition forces.

U.S. Central Command has some standing organizations that the Navy has worked with for a long time, building maritime partnerships that help in the global war on terror and in thwarting irregular warfare by our enemies.

Navy Warfare Development Command is always working to develop concepts that we can release to the fleet to repackage our forces or change the organizational construct or the doctrines under which we operate. Our lessons learned programs contribute to that. We need to operate inside the decision loop of our enemy, as well as working within our own constructs of how we want to apply forces, given our rules of engagement and the kinds of things we want to do with respect to shaping the environment.

We want to be about building partnerships, capacity, preventing wars, and not having to go in and work in a situation [conflict] where some instability has already started.

CHIPS: Can you talk about some of the recent innovative products that NWDC has delivered to the fleet?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: Certainly; the Navy Continuous Training Environment is an excellent example, and within it are an entire set of smaller innovative products. But, it is not so much the innovative products that NWDC delivers that would say this has the Navy Warfare Development Command stamp on it. We partner with many other organizations and centers of excellence in the Navy to develop capability.

For instance, we work with the Office of Naval Research to develop technology solutions in areas where there are warfighting gaps or when a new technology emerges that will give us an advantage. We work closely developing solutions for anti-submarine warfare with the ASW (Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command) center of excellence on the West Coast.

We also work with organizations, such as the Chief of Naval Operations' Strategic Studies Group, the Naval War College, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, to generate and develop concepts for future Navy force packaging, strategic concepts and war gaming.

CHIPS: What is the Joint Innovation and Experimentation Enterprise? What experiments is the command working on right now?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: That's a joint initiative that works to promote innovation and experimentation across all the services. United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) is the predominant lead in that area, but each of the services has representatives.

I have people on my staff who work in this building, but there are also some people who are engaged and work at USJFCOM J9. They help to coordinate the exercise and experimentation requirements that go into the kinds of transformational things we want to look at from a joint perspective.

I met recently with Dan Davenport [Rear Adm. Dan W. Davenport, Director, Joint Concept Development and Experimentation (J9)] at USJFCOM, who is a two-star Navy officer. Navy Warfare Development Command is the Navy's enterprise lead for that coordination. It dovetails with my experimentation hat.

I will soon have a two-day session where we will look at the kinds of things that we want to experiment across the joint arena so that each service can identify what we want to test and evaluate or look into further as a spiral experiment in a joint context, partnered with other services.

In order to reach joint solutions, we try to build solutions as much as possible from the bedrock of naval service capabilities and develop joint interoperability and capability, with not only our communications systems, but with the manner in which we operate and the way we generate doctrine.

Our goal is to ensure alignment among our force, methods and important missions, such as command and control and communications, for operations across the full spectrum. The result will be greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Much of this will feed into the training that will go through [JFCOM's] J7 when they are working to train forces going into Iraq or Afghanistan or the Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, which is predominately manned by Navy personnel at this point.

JFCOM's J9 and J7 go hand-in-hand, and much of what NWDC does with respect to experimentation feeds into there, and it feeds into the Navy Continuous Training Environment.

CHIPS: Can you discuss the NWDC's modeling and simulation program and operations analysis?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: Very smart people are involved in both modeling and simulation and operations analysis. Operations analysis supports most of the other things we do. A lot of what NWDC does supports concepts and doctrine. The other programs help us in meeting the requirements to deliver to the fleet concepts and doctrine.

Modeling and simulation support us in the experimentation role because we take lessons learned or a concept we are developing and conduct war games or experimentation to further examine the areas that we need to test.

For instance, doctrine may change as technology changes, so we need to experiment with that. Sometimes, we want to do an organizational change. Right now, the Navy is doing some organizational changes with respect to a concept called MHQ with MOC, Maritime Headquarters with Maritime Operations Center. That is a major command and control initiative.

The modeling and simulation helps us to not only duplicate capabilities that enemies may have and experiment against those, but we can also simulate friendly forces. Through our modeling and simulation capabilities, we can replicate all of this in a virtual environment.

We can now model realistic forces, including U.S. and foreign ships, submarines and aircraft. We link all these things together to conduct experimentation but also employ the simulation for fleet training. These efforts serve dual purposes as we evolve modeling and simulation continuously by completing experiments, while still meeting requirements for fleet training.

Occasionally, we combine experimentation with fleet exercises or training and support [that] with simulation. We deploy an analysis team to conduct evaluations of what's happening. They are not evaluating the performance of the fleet but the way that doctrine is applied and whether or not techniques and procedures are accurate. Or, they look at what may need to be changed in response to evolving scenarios, conditions or technologies.

The team brings that information back and completes an in-depth analysis. Last week, I took a report back from an exercise called Terminal Fury, which places the Pacific Fleet in a high-end scenario with a lot of moving parts. My folks came back with all the data that we captured with the modeling and simulation pieces.

We know what happened, what kinds of forces were presented to the training audience, and what their responses were. We know what kind of actions and decisions the commander made. Having all of that is a powerful force to promote change and maturity in our operations and concepts.

Now, we can analyze all of those and figure out if there were pieces where we were inadequate in our training, if we need to modify our doctrine or tactics, techniques and procedures, or if in the scenarios presented, we can identify where we can change our concepts a little bit to give ourselves an operational or strategic advantage.

Operations analysis enables us to get the maximum benefit out of these kinds of scenarios, benefiting not only the training audience, but allowing us to take away pieces that can inform our whole Navy so we make the whole organization better.

It all melds very closely together, and every single one of these areas within NWDC has to be running on all cylinders in order to feed the rest of them. There is no one area that's supreme, and they all complement each other.

As we work with other organizations, we consider ourselves in less of a production role and more as enabling the Navy to get better in specific areas by collaborating with other organizations.

CHIPS: I noticed in the command brief that NWDC is developing the Navy's next generation digital doctrine system. Can you explain what it is?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: If you had been with me yesterday, I could have given you a quick demo. I was at an organization yesterday, which is not an inherently joint organization but a forum whereby the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine counterparts and I sit and discuss ways that we can help each other at the tactical level, to produce some things that are not necessarily joint across all the services but are useful to several.

For instance, convoy operations with the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force, which they are all doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. We each have a similar system, and yesterday, we were comparing and contrasting the capabilities of those and how to get common procedures and techniques.

With the advent of computers, databases, and search engine possibilities, we have said that it would be very useful to the people in the field or to someone stationed at one of these Global Fleet Stations or conducting convoy operations.

It is particularly useful for commanders or senior level leaders as they are preparing operational requirements to go forward. We do a lot of this training anyway, but when they are out on the pointy end, they can just program in a phrase in a search engine and find specific information to help their circumstance.

If they would program in a phrase like 'Global Fleet Station,' it would give them not only the current doctrine and the TTPs and the links to go to those places, but it would also give them the specific paragraph that might be the most informative for them if they refined their search. If they put in a specific area of what the Global Fleet Station was going to do for humanitarian assistance and successes and lessons learned, they could pull that information out.

They can cut and paste because it is in an HTML format; they can make their own 'little black book' of procedures, tailored specifically to their needs.

I am an aviator, so we talk about pocket checklists and quick checklist cards where I have something there at my disposal to answer my questions or to give me information almost instantly. The Navy term is 'gouge.'

This new system, NDLS, gives total gouge to the folks out there deployed and doing the nation's business. It gives them capability to access what is already out there in the doctrine and find where someone learned a valuable lesson. It helps them know: How can I input that into doctrine, or can I see if it has already been done as a lesson learned? We will eventually get to a capability where a blog of dialogue is accessible from the desktop, and people will get in and out very rapidly.

Users can configure it exactly the way they want. If they repeatedly go to certain books and they want to look at joint doctrine, they can 'bookmark it.' If they want to find information for a certain geographic area, that maybe the Army has done, we are trying to link those to the other kinds of programs so they can talk and share information. We think this will be valuable in today's environment operating in ways that we have not before.

Not only is there a Navy Lessons Learned Program, but there is a Joint Lessons Learned Program. We have set up the joint parameters in the Navy lessons learned, and we will eventually nest underneath the joint piece.

The conversation we had yesterday was that, perhaps, we can get to a point where all of these functions can also be aligned under a joint system so we allow greater integration and greater capability for all the forces.

We were thinking about ways we could make the systems complementary so that we could get the maximum use out of all of them and ensure that the information was out there the right way, with immediate availability to deployed forces.

CHIPS: How is NWDC preparing for the headquarters move from Newport, Rhode Island, to Norfolk, Virginia?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: It is a daily evolution. I have a lot of people on staff working that. We broke ground on the new building outside of Gate 3 [of Naval Station Norfolk] June 12.

We have some staff already here in Norfolk, and we still have staff in Newport, Rhode Island. We have a specific plan for moving people down in phased approaches. It partly has to do with the kinds of jobs they are doing and, partly, the things that need to be down here sooner rather than later for our engagement purposes, such as our interaction with Joint Forces Command.

I have space in this building and in an adjacent building where we have about 60 seats. We have almost all of those filled now. We have some work going on in another building about a mile away, E-26, which will be somewhat refurbished in order to make room for an additional 60 seats. They are going to start refurbishing in the fall, and we should be able to move those people down here in January or February.

As we are transitioning people down, many people who are close to retirement have elected to retire, or there are other opportunities for them because there are new facilities moving into Newport. As jobs open up in Newport due to retirements or moves, we move that position down here and hire in Norfolk.

We have already done that with some contractors and government services. In many cases, contractors have more flexibility. With respect to the military, anyone who is in Newport will remain in Newport until the end of their projected rotation date. When that rotation date comes up, the personnel system is looking to fill the billet here, so the military will gradually transition down over the next two years.

We do quite a lot of video teleconferencing, and I make a couple of trips to Newport a month. We have worked closely with the human resources folks in the Newport area to make it as smooth a transition as possible for anyone who elects to move down here or for anyone [civilian personnel] who does not want to move and wants another [job] opportunity up in that area.

CHIPS: You were the deputy at 2nd Fleet when the plans for the move were made. Has it been difficult to take command in the middle of the move?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: I reviewed the plan that they established before I arrived and made a couple of tweaks here and there, largely with respect to contractor support. We have some additional missions assigned; it is called ADDU, or additional duties, that are now assigned to the CNO's staff. Because of that, there are a couple of billets that will potentially move down sooner rather than later.

Part of the transition plan is contingent on the building being on schedule. The modeling and simulation that we do at Newport now can be done anywhere. We designed the new building specifically to support future fleet requirements for modeling and simulation. We have designed our facility to provide an expanding capability that can meet the future needs of the fleet.

Modeling and simulation will be one of the final groups to move down even though we already have some technological support in Norfolk and a number of contractors who work at Dam Neck, Virginia, at the Distributed Training Center, Atlantic.

We do the modeling, simulation and experimentation from Newport in our M&S lab, but we also have pieces of that training network in various locations around the country, so we have distributed staff in those areas as well.

CHIPS: Can you talk about NWDC's role in NATO Standardization?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: We have a pubs section that produces a lot of the NATO pubs that have to do with the maritime environment, and I have people on my staff from other nations as well.

I have an ongoing relationship with Allied Command Transformation and with the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence (CJOS COE), which resides at 2nd Fleet. My previous association with 2nd Fleet makes it easy to continue dialogue.

I have, attached to my staff, an 0-6 who resides in Brussels. Technically, he serves the military committee, and he has direct interface on a daily basis with respect to the Navy's interchange on any NATO publications or doctrine that needs to be developed.

I have a Brit on the staff, and he will comment on publications that have to do with NATO. We work with them closely with representation at the right areas, and we do a lot of coalition development with the other nations as we move forward on maritime strategy and our Navy Continuous Training Environment.

We are doing our modeling and simulation work to produce the kinds of training we need for our own fleets, and now we have the integration of many of the NATO nations involved usually on a bilateral agreement basis.

CHIPS: I was amused by Cap'n Moby on the NWDC Web site (, the Navy Lessons Learned Program mascot.

Rear Adm. Carpenter: It seems to have gotten a lot of attention. Do you know how Cap'n Moby got his name? Of course, from Moby Dick, but the real genesis behind Cap'n Moby is that if you don't learn lessons, it can cost you.

CHIPS: I read that subscribers to the program increased. Do you have information about lessons learned that saved lives, money, or lessons that were incorporated into doctrine changes?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: Not off the top of my head, but there probably are things if I reach way back in my memory.

I can think back in my own career, and this isn't related to the Navy Warfare Development Command, but there happened to be an incident when I was flying VIP aircraft where another squadron had an issue with how they were deicing their airplanes, or more importantly, how they weren't, in bad weather.

They made certain assumptions that the military's fluid was the same as the civilian fluid, and it wasn't. The commanding officer of my base called me and told me, 'This is what we found in the investigation, and I am concerned that maybe we don't know all the facts or don't understand things that we should, so tag, you're it. Figure it out, and come up with some better training and insight for me.'

I became, for lack of a better word, the Navy's guru on deicing. It was eye-opening for me, and I had flown fixed-wing large aircraft for years and used deicing fluid. The Navy's publications were not as correct as they should have been. It could be catastrophic or misleading in some instances where you had no margin of error.

We took the lessons that we learned and instead of eating somebody up for making a mistake, we looked at how we could learn from the lesson. How do we apply it to our doctrine, procedures and manuals, change what we are doing, and then produce a training program to change the behavior of everybody and make sure the education reaches down to the levels it needs to?

That is the exciting thing about being at this command. There is great opportunity to learn from the lessons and make it better so that we can help our shipmates and help other people, whether it is military or civilian, to have better impact, be safer on their jobs, and just have a better life.

CHIPS: I understand that the Navy Lessons Learned Program would like to reach not only U.S. military and civilian employees, but also contractors, joint and combined operations and allies.

Rear Adm. Carpenter: We routinely operate with each other, and sometimes, our doctrine is different. But under NATO TTPs, when we work together, we develop similar tactics, techniques and procedures, and we train together so that obviously helps us.

We share a lot of information in many international forums, not just my command but also many in the Navy, and they bring those back to us. NATO is in many of our exercises and experiments.

For instance, I was involved in an experiment in the spring, and my counterpart at the staff CJOS COE, [Royal Navy], Commodore Bob Mansergh, was working with me on the experiment. We told everybody up-front that we were interchangeable because of our schedules. I couldn't be there every single minute like I wanted to be, and he couldn't either, but the two of us would probably equal one person being there most of the time.

We also thought we could bring the added benefit of the different perspectives of how we operate. Each nation has its own particular set of rules of engagement. We have to make sure, particularly at the command level, and for command and control, that the rules of engagement are worked out ahead of time.

We know that because we have operated in coalitions for such a long time. Our senior commanders are active in making sure that they figure out ahead of time what a country can and cannot do. They might help plan an operation but not execute an operation, or they might not be willing to help plan an operation because of their rules of engagement or the direction they are heading politically.

We have good ongoing relationships. I just gave a brief at the Army War College three weeks ago, and we had a number of coalition allies in there that were not predominately NATO, but they were predominately Army officers.

Of course, we have those kinds of battlefield lessons learned going on all the time at the joint level and by people who are in the field capturing lessons learned.

Joint Forces Command sends teams out to do those kinds of things as well. They incorporate the lessons learned into joint and coalition doctrine, and get it out to us.

The Navy Warfare Development Command plays in that some, but probably the vast majority of it is going on in theater. We will take in post-deployment briefs from Navy groups that come in.

CHIPS: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

Rear Adm. Carpenter: I am a bit unusual [in command] because I am a Reserve officer. The Navy doesn't normally ask us to do something for three years, but I had previous association with the CNO, since I worked for him when he was 2nd Fleet Commander. They asked if I was willing to come on full-time active duty for two to three years to take this command.

I have been pretty much full time since about 2000 but never imagined such an amazing opportunity would be put into my lap. I am thrilled.

I genuinely can't think of another place that I would rather be because there is such tremendous opportunity for this command. It's a tough process to go through the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) with the people in Newport and to make the transition — while not missing a beat — and still take on such an important mission on behalf of our Navy and nation.

The whole command has done tremendous work in the past, but I think that this is the pivotal time because of the move, because of the CNO missions, because of the kinds of integrations that there are, and because of the people that are in the senior positions in the Navy. We are poised at NWDC to have an even bigger impact than we have in years past.

I am excited to get up and come to work every day. It is more than an honor; it is humbling to think about the capability and the capacity of the people that belong to this organization. To have been chosen to help guide them to the next level is a tremendous honor and opportunity.

Thirty-one years after I came into the Navy, I am excited to still be a part and doing what I do. It's fun, I love the people, I love the challenge, and I leave at the end of the day feeling that I made an impact on our security and on the lives of my shipmates.

New NWDC headquarters building goes green

The 84,849 square-foot facility will accommodate 264 people. Three new parking areas with 498 parking spaces will ease traffic congestion on the busy Norfolk base. The approximate cost of the building project, which includes furnishings, is $28 million.

The NWDC headquarters will be the home of the state-of-the-art modeling and simulation lab which will support the Navy Continuous Training Environment, Navy experimentation and concepts of operations development.

The building will meet current Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ standards, a third party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter
Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter

Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter's promotion ceremony Aug. 8. Joining the admiral are her former aide Lt. Nolan King, her daughter Rachel Carpenter, and friend June Gurr.
Rear Adm. Wendi B. Carpenter's promotion ceremony Aug. 8. Joining the admiral are her former aide Lt. Nolan King, her daughter Rachel Carpenter, and friend June Gurr.

Rendering of the future headquarters of Navy Warfare Development Command aboard Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Groundbreaking for the new building was June 12; building completion is planned for November 2009 with occupancy expected by March 2010.
Rendering of the future headquarters of Navy Warfare Development Command aboard Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Groundbreaking for the new building was June 12; building completion is planned for November 2009 with occupancy expected by March 2010.

Rear Adm. Wendi Carpenter with Cap'n Moby, the mascot for the Navy Lessons Learned Program. Moby serves as a vivid reminder that not learning from the mistakes of the past can have deadly consequences. The NWDC Web site ( hosts the Navy Lessons Learned Program.
Rear Adm. Wendi Carpenter with Cap'n Moby, the mascot for the Navy Lessons Learned Program. Moby serves as a vivid reminder that not learning from the mistakes of the past can have deadly consequences. The NWDC Web site ( hosts the Navy Lessons Learned Program.
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