KEESLER Miss -- 336th Training Squadron
Keesler's cyber training community is playing a key role in the largest Air Force specialty code transformation in its 62-year history. In total, Keesler is on tap to produce 5,316 graduated and AFSC-awarded cyber Airmen annually, according to 81st Training Group projections.
"Transformation" means something different to each of the career fields - some are transforming more than others, and others will change in name or title only. All of the communications community's traditional AFSCs will now fall under the 3DXXX cyberspace support construct, yielding from the 3AXXX information management, 3CXXX communication-computer systems and some of the 2EXXX communication-electronics/wire systems maintenance specialty codes.
The 336th Training Squadron is in the middle of this transformation storm with its cyber surety course which began training students Oct. 20.
This transformation presents significant challenges, said Lt. Col. Russell Voce, 336th TRS commander.
"First, all development must be finalized before Airmen are enrolled, and the 81st Training Group is anticipating the need to fine-tune courses along the way," Colonel Voce explained. "Much like the initial release of a new automobile model or piece of electronic equipment, certain 'bugs' or nuances will arise to command the attention of course instructors. At that point, the training squadrons will have the opportunity to continuously hone training for greater realism and accuracy."
The Airmen enrolled in most of the 336th TRS cyber courses will participate in a triple-tiered training system. First, the Airmen will attend the 40-day information technology fundamentals taught by the 332th TRS instructors for either 10 or 40 days, depending on their AFSC. Then they'll proceed to one of five follow-on courses taught in the 336th TRS - programming, cyber systems operations, knowledge operations, cyber surety or client systems.
The programming course and knowledge operations course are nearly direct conversions with very little new course development, but students are now required to take the IT fundamentals course. The programming course consists of software system design, development and maintenance.
The knowledge operations course, essentially the former information management course, trains students to comprehensively manage organizational data and information assets. The cyber systems operations course centers on the configuration and management of servers, data storage devices and software applications.
Cyber surety and client systems are brand-new courses. Cyber surety students learn to protect clients, networks, data/voice systems and databases from unauthorized activity. The course covers communications security, emissions security and computer security principles. These Airmen will ensure the integrity, availability, confidentiality and authentication of IT resources by installing, monitoring and directing proactive and reactive information protection measures.
They'll manage information assurance programs by identifying potential threats and managing resolution of security violations. Client systems is an even larger conglomerate of information systems technologies mission sets involving the management and administration of essentially every piece of end-user equipment from the wall to the desktop in every office space.
Students are trained to deploy, sustain, troubleshoot and repairs standard voice, data, video network and cryptographic client devices in fixed and deployed environments. They'll eventually possess the skills to tie the equipment into the base IT infrastructure, ensuring fully networked systems. Instructors must maintain an active secret clearance to teach this 50-academic-day course.
Five other cyber courses are taught in the 338th TRS -- cyber transport, radio frequency transmission, radar, airfield systems or cable/antenna. Airmen who complete cyber systems operations, client systems, cyber transport, or cyber surety training then attend the AFSC-awarding portion of their courses - what's called 8570 training - for 10 training days. This 8570 training is composed of either "A+" or "Security+" certifications depending on the AFSC.
"These certifications are recognized as industry standards upon which people are deemed 'hirable' or not -- essentially business resume discriminators," Colonel Voce pointed out. "They're put in place and intended to round out knowledge of cyber-centric tactics, techniques and procedures for Air Force cyber professionals. For the first six months, the 8570 certifications will be taught by contractors until active-duty instructors are certified and authorized to teach. Combined, the 8570 courses will produce 2,150 graduates annually.
"This is particularly challenging because this certification needs to be accomplished to industry standards in aggressive timelines while avoiding high washout rates," the colonel continued. "Many of these Airmen will now possess skills desirable by many companies and government agencies outside of active military service. Pending the resurgence of America's economy, it may be increasingly difficult to retain these trained professionals in blue uniforms.
"Additionally, instructors only have 10 days in which to impart the proper skills and knowledge for Airmen to successfully complete the certification process. This timeline may prove aggressive and the squadrons may experience higher washback or washout rates than initially expected.
Colonel Voce is convinced that the challenges can be overcome. "Keesler continues to make all communicators proud - from the newest Airman Basic fresh out of technical training to the most senior cyber officer, Lt. Gen. William Lord, former 81st Training Wing commander who now serves as chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer in the office of the Secretary of the Air Force," the colonel remarked.
Maj. Ryan Robinson, 338th director of operations, and Terrance Owens, chief of the 338th TRS communications and information management flight, contributed to this report.