Capt. Christopher G. Bryant relieved Capt. Marc W. Ratkus as commanding officer of the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT) during a change of command ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum on Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, July 22.
Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, commander, Naval Education and Training Command, served as the presiding officer, while retired Rear Adm. Steve L. Parode, a leader in the information warfare community and mentor to Ratkus, provided comments as the guest speaker.
The ceremony, a time-honored tradition of transferring total responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another, marked the end of a successful tour for Ratkus.
During his remarks, Garvin praised Ratkus for his numerous accomplishments during his time in command, including strengthening ties within the information warfare community; modernizing and improving training across all CIWT ratings, and within the cyber mission force; and upgrading labs with realistic scenarios and hands-on training, extending the use of the Navy’s Multipurpose Reconfigurable Training System 3D® virtual trainer.
“Marc, all of that was made possible through your brilliant leadership,” said Garvin. “Elite teams need elite coaches and elite leaders. So, yes, you have a fantastic team, but it was one that was brilliantly led.”
The change of command also marked the completion of Ratkus’ ascendant 39-year military career -- a career he started as an enlisted Sailor at Corry Station attending Cryptologic Technician Maintenance “A” school in 1983, and concluded with two successful years commanding CIWT as the highest ranking naval officer on Corry Station.
Parode spoke about Ratkus entering the Navy during a time when the nation was confronted by an enemy of strategic proportions, who has now come around again wearing a different set of clothes.
“Marc joined the Navy to defend our nation,” said Parode. “And he became entranced by the need to do that for freaking ever, for 40 years. Often, that's what happens to us. We serve for as long as we can, because once you enter the world of cryptology, now, information warfare, you've become exposed to the depth of terror, the real threat that faces the American people and the way of life that we cherish. And once you're exposed to that, you absolutely don't want to walk away from it. It becomes a lifetime passion to secure our nation.”
Parode went on to state that it is our ability to sustain our power and the ability to exercise our power on the high seas of the world that is the surest guarantor of peace. However, there is no hope of the success of any instruments of naval warfare without success early on in information warfare.
“Information warfare is the foundation for all naval warfare, and if you believe what I believe, that naval warfare is the foundation for national power, information warfare in the United States Navy is the foundation for national power,” said Parode.
It is essential, said Parode, that we recognize that the leadership provided by Ratkus, the commanding officers that came before him, and Bryant, now assuming command, have not just helped guarantee the peace, but also guaranteed success in combat when we had the need to fight.
During Ratkus’ remarks he said he could hardly believe that two years had passed, that serving as the commanding officer of CIWT had been the highlight of his career, and that he couldn’t think of a better place to conclude his career than in Pensacola where he started his service.
To the CIWT staff, Ratkus said, “I can’t thank you all enough for the phenomenal work, initiatives, and training advancements you made to prepare information warriors to fight and win in this new strategic environment. Our mission is inspiring, and I am profoundly honored and humbled to have been a part of it.”
Ratkus thanked Garvin and Parode, the numerous friends, colleagues, and former shipmates in the audience, and most of all his wife, Brenda, who he presented with the military spouse medal, and their family.
Ratkus, a native of High Point, North Carolina, was promoted through the rank of chief before he was commissioned a chief warrant officer. Ratkus was selected for the limited duty officer program and promoted to lieutenant junior grade, laterally transferred to the cryptologic warfare community and continued his service, finally advancing to the rank of captain. His operational assignments included service aboard five ships, as well as a shore deployment to Afghanistan. His shore assignments took him from Europe, across the U.S. and out to Hawaii.
Ratkus intends to continue in Pensacola after retiring, having served here several times during his career, and his wife, Brenda, and her family are from the greater Pensacola area.
During his speech, Bryant also thanked Garvin, Parode who he too had the pleasure of meeting early on in his information warfare career, and his family and friends for attending. Byrant extoled the importance of information warfare training in the current global environment, and assured Ratkus that CIWT would maintain its high standards and continue to meet any challenges.
Bryant is native to the area, hailing from Pace, Florida. He received his commission through Officer Candidate School, earned his naval flight officer wings, and was designated a polar transport navigator, completing two deployments to Antarctica, and numerous other worldwide sites. Bryant graduated from the Defense Language Institute Washington as a Dutch (Nederland) language student, and participated in the Personnel Exchange Program in Valkenburg, the Netherlands, before moving into the information warfare community and serving in operational and shore duty capacities.
Bryant served as the commanding officer of Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station (now designated Information Warfare Training Command Corry Station) from 2013 to 2015. He most recently served with U.S. Fleet Cyber Command as the assistant chief of staff for plans and policy, before reporting to CIWT to assume command.