Army stands up first-of-its-kind cyber brigade, explores dedicated career field for cyber

Following up on a story we reported last month: an Army proposal to create a new dedicated career branch for cyber specialties. That new branch could be up and running as soon as October, Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Harris, Army Cyber Command’s senior enlisted advisor told the Army’s news service.

In the meantime, the Army has just taken another significant step toward institutionalizing cyber in the U.S. military, creating its first Cyber Protection Brigade.

The new brigade, based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, will serve as the parent organization for the crop of cyber protection teams the Army and the other military services have been building since last year.

Those teams — one of three types of cyber units that U.S. Cyber Command has asked the military services to start staffing up — will be primarily focused on defending DoD’s own networks. The others, National Mission Teams and Combat Mission Teams, are in charge of defending civilian critical infrastructure and offensive operations, respectively.

The Army has been bringing its cyber protection teams toward initial operating capability at Fort Gordon and at other locations around the country, but it only has about half the teams it wants so far. With the standup of the new brigade, the Army will be “aggressively” manning those teams, said Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, the commander of Army Cyber Command.

“For the Army and the joint force, this unit represents another giant step toward fully operationalizing cyberspace, bringing more and more capabilities to our joint force to our combatant and Army commanders,” Cardon said.

Eventually, the new brigade will host 20 teams of about 39 people each, including both soldiers and civilians. Overall, Cyber Command has asked the Army to provide 41 teams, including those responsible for offense and national defense.

On the career development front, the Army is in active discussions about building a new career management process for cyber in anticipation of the creation of the new cyber branch. Harris said a conference last month at Fort Meade, Maryland, included talk of several new military occupational specialties dedicated to cyber — a new “17 series,” in Army personnel parlance.

The new career field would be a significant change in the way the Army currently trains soldiers for cyber. Right now, those personnel are drawn from an ad-hoc collection of other specialties including signals and military intelligence and then trained for three years. But after serving maybe just one tour of duty in a cyber job, a soldier might be tasked with something else or choose to leave the military entirely since there’s no dedicated career path as of now.

Harris says that won’t happen once the Army has a cyber career mission field in place.

This post is part of Jared Serbu’s Inside the Reporter’s Notebook feature. Read more from this edition of Jared’s Notebook.

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