SAN DIEGO — The desire to become a commanding officer is one of the highest aspirations for members of the Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) community. For Lt. Cmdr. Wilbert Breeden, the C5I officer aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), this goal is ambitious, but achievable.
On Oct. 1, 2014 Breeden passed his Command Qualification Board. It is just one of the many steps an officer has to take to become a commanding officer and take charge of a command.
“The command qualification board is the final step before a screening to command a ship at sea, so it’s a pretty big deal for a Surface Warfare Officer,” said Boxer’s Operations Officer Cmdr. Daniel Arthur.
Breeden initially joined the Navy on the enlisted side as a Sonar Technician. He advanced to Petty Officer 2nd class before he decided to try for an officer program.
Breeden had some college schooling prior to enlisting, and while he was training in “C” School he completed his degree. He applied to officer candidate school (OCS) and was accepted.
“It’s definitely been a goal,” said Breeden. “I came here enlisted, and decided to go the officer route. If you’re going to be a Surface Warfare Officer, being the Captain of a ship is a big privilege and honor.”
Officers first have to pass a command qualification exam, which tests knowledge of everything from tactics, to administration and personnel management.
“In order for my career to progress, getting that designation allows for my career to move up and it’s a huge responsibility to take care of a ship. It’s a really fascinating goal,” said Breeden.
Once they pass that command qualification exam they move on to a command qualification board.
“The board is chaired by an O-6 and it’s all sitting SWO commanding officers, all people currently in command of ships, and they each spend about an hour talking to you, checking out how you make decisions, talking to you about what your command philosophy is going to be, and seeing if you’re someone that they want commanding a surface ship,” said Arthur.
Along the way Breeden faced challenges, but with the help and support from his team he still performed his duties and made time to study.
“The C5I job is a massive job on the ship,” said Breeden. “I think one of the great things that happened here is that the Captain and the XO [Executive Officer] were great in supporting my need to study so as my time came closer, they allowed me more time to study, and I have a great supporting cast here too. I think if I hadn’t had such a great supporting cast along with the captain and the XO being supportive as well I don’t know that I could’ve found the time to accomplish this goal.’
Breeden looks forward to continuing the process and hopes to eventually achieve his goal, and take command of a destroyer.
“I wanted my career to progress,” said Breeden. “It helps me professionally. It helps me take care of my family. It benefits all the way around.”