When he retired after 40 years of active duty service, ADM Scott Swift, USN (Ret.) was quick to tell people that he wouldn’t have wanted to serve a day less. A Naval Aviator whose experience includes command of U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. Pacific Fleet, Swift maintained his enthusiasm for his job and commitment to the mission until his final days in uniform. “I wanted to sprint across the finish line. No matter what command I was in, I always kept focused on the mission, and that was certainly true right up until the end,” he reflected.
A few months into retirement, he amended his statement. “Now I add that I also wouldn’t have wanted to serve a day more.” He explained further, “In the Navy, people leave at different points in their career path, and I think that’s important to keep the organization healthy. I really felt that my leaving was an opportunity for others to step up. To think that one individual is any better than the 300,000 plus that are serving is not, I think, very realistic.”
Swift has welcomed the new opportunities that have been presented to him in his civilian life, including an enhanced role at the Naval War College (NWC) and with the Naval War College Foundation (NWCF). “To come back to the Naval War College as an adjunct professor is a chance to give back for the help it gave me during my career.” Swift’s role at the College includes advising the wargaming department and working with the College of Maritime Operational Warfare, where many senior officers return to participate in courses designed to hone their skills beyond the traditional NWC curriculum.
“The College does an excellent job of preparing students to succeed in senior staff environments,” stated Swift. “It gives them the skill sets they need, and then it’s up to them to be a little bit disruptive.”
As both a former fleet commander and part of the NWC’s faculty, Swift has seen firsthand how it teaches military and civilian leaders not what to think, but how to think. “The College does an excellent job of preparing students to succeed in senior staff environments,” stated Swift. “It gives them the skill sets they need, and then it’s up to them to be a little bit disruptive.” And by disruptive, Swift explained that senior officers should not accept the status quo – that it’s okay to have a minority view and ask probing questions. “Rather than only clarity from hindsight, we can have clarity with foresight, too – foresight that comes from using the tools that the War College provides students,” he said.
“A phrase I like to use is that we need to think strategically, plan operationally, and act tactically,” said Swift.
Swift also recognizes that there is value in the holistic approach the Naval War College takes to its curriculum, preparing leaders who are dedicated to preserving national security and a global position of leadership. “A phrase I like to use is that we need to think strategically, plan operationally, and act tactically,” said Swift. In this vein, the focus at the College on strengthening relationships between the military and its civilian partner agencies – an aspect that Swift cites as necessary for a return to a grand national strategy – is another example of the importance of the work of the NWC.
Swift is also bringing his flag-level experience and knowledge of the College to his role as Chairman of the NWCF’s Strategic Advisory Council (SAC). The SAC, staffed by Swift and three other retired Navy admirals, provides guidance and advice to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership team on matters related to the Department of the Navy and the governance of the Naval War College. Their expertise helps the Foundation remain focused and informed as it continues to support the College. “The three- and four-stars on the committee have been to the War College – they understand the environment – and they have served in consequential positions, so they are able to help the Board more deeply understand how to serve the College.” Joining Swift on the SAC are ADM Bill Moran, USN (Ret.), VADM Nan DeRenzi, USN (Ret.), and VADM Mike Connor, USN (Ret.).
Thinking back to that transition from active duty, Swift recalled the trepidation that is commonly felt by many entering the civilian workforce. But any concerns he had were quickly assuaged by the new possibilities in front of him. “I came to realize that there were plenty of opportunities to continue the work that I was interested in and passionate about, and sometimes more opportunities to make a difference out of uniform than in.” With that experience and energy, Admiral Swift is greatly assisting the NWCF to advance the mission of the Naval War College.