Want to do something important that helps keep us all safe and at the same time get training that will almost guarantee a great job after your service? Maybe the Navy is your answer.


So, two weeks ago I was on my way back from a soccer match with my 14-year-old, and we got to talking about what he wanted to do when he got out of high school. Me I was thinking about where he would go college. Of course, he was thinking about a big MLS contract. Now that would be awesome, and I support that dream but then what do you do when you retire at the ripe age of 27?

This conversation and my recollection of the same conversation with my father did get me thinking about what I would be interested if I was his age. What would I be thinking about as a career? What would I think was exciting and cool (I just aged myself by using the word cool)? What could I do to prepare myself for a career if I was in high school or college today? What are the jobs of tomorrow?

The first thing that comes to mind is computers and security. In those areas, and technology in general, there is a war going on, over talent. In California, itself where many of the tech companies are located, jobs are growing at four times the state's average rate for other jobs.

One figure I came across stated that there are 546,000 open computing positions available while less than 50,000 computer science graduates joined the U.S. workforce last year.


Service and Significance

Through a friend, I was recently introduced to the Navy's Center for Information Warfare. The school and its training program extended an invitation for me to visit, and have a firsthand look at recruiting efforts and there pitch to young people.

Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station (NASP Corry Station) hosts several of the Navy's Information Warfare Corps training commands and is the headquarters for its Center for Information Warfare Training. About 8,300 students move through Corry Station annually, and there are about 2,200 training there on any given day. I spent the day with students and instructors in the cryptologic school (CT) for short. Believe me, it's as cool as it sounds and the training you get is intense and hard but helps protect our troops on the ground and all of us at home.

There are several flavors of cryptologic school:

* CTI (Interpretive) conduct Information Operations (IO) using foreign language skills and advanced computer systems. They continue training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.

* CTM (Maintenance) maintain and fix cryptologic stuff exclusively.

* CTN (Networks) conduct computer network operations worldwide for Navy and DoD.

* CTR (Collection) collect, analyze, locate and report global threats.

* CTT (Technical) identify threats and provide technical and tactical guidance to commanders at sea and abroad.

Almost all Information Warfare personnel (CT, CW, IT, et al.) have Top Secret security clearances. As a result, they cannot discuss much of what they do to anyone outside of the community. The term "family" was used repeatedly to describe the community. As students discover the unique capabilities of their new roles, beginning with their first classified lesson, they start to share the quiet pride displayed by each of the instructors. By their 2nd week in C school, every single CT knows things that will be classified from the American public for decades to come. Students, some of just out of high school, spoke of the complications of secrecy and the transition for family members who can't help but ask, "What did you learn in class today?" Several of the instructors are married to other members in the Navy who share an understanding of the responsibility of security clearances. But even these couples can't discuss the specifics of their work at the end of the day as clearance is often specialized, and classified information can only be discussed in secure environments.


In my conversation with sailors, several things they said stuck out to me.


* "We lead the SEAL teams to the bad guys."


* "We help allies with target packages."


* "CTs protected the USS Mason."


* "We don't just learn languages. We learn nuance, meaning, and subtexts - when we watch the news about

stuff happening around the world, we see/hear it very differently than you do."


* "We know when things are going to happen and when they have happened, frequently days before the

news tells you (if they tell you at all)."


* "The new battlespace is information and communication."


Just about every student we spoke to who enlisted to become a CT or IT was told next to nothing about the job by their recruiters "because everything they do is top secret."  Rather than turn recruits off, the mysterious nature of the job seems to have been a selling point, along with the opportunity for rapid advancement (more money), post-Navy value in the civilian workforce, and working air conditioning. This is a bonus when you are deployed in some of the hot places we work around the world.

Sailors I spoke to talked about an inclusive environment that welcomes recruits of different backgrounds, education levels, professions, and academic disciplines. We met CTs with degrees or advanced study in Psychology, Language Arts, History - you name it. This interdisciplinary thinking lends itself to the analysis CTs do and enhances the ability to see patterns, identify trends, and draw connections. Above all, those who succeed in this community are driven by curiosity and a thirst for more knowledge. They continue to study and develop their skills whether they are in training or not. Many CT work environments support creative and critical thinking with more relaxed command structures that allow the command to benefit from the ingenuity of more junior sailors. Perhaps it is this quality that makes the CT community more hospitable to and popular with female sailors. It is one of the few elite communities with a significant portion of women. Sailors stated several times that when you are trying to analyze and interpret the meaning behind the information you collect, it makes sense to have people who can look at the data from a variety of perspectives.

Sailors in this community can be stationed on basically any platform meaning an aircrew, sub, etc. They may work from a small building with no windows in the middle of nowhere in the United States, a locked air-conditioned room aboard a destroyer, or with a SEAL team-leading active missions overseas. As a result, many CT's must complete operational training to prepare them physically to work alongside elite special warfare teams.

The Information Warfare community is at the forefront of the new battlespace. Sailors spoke with pride about the critical role in the planning process of missions and operations CTs now perform. The IW community brings an age-old truth to this new era of warfighting; information is power. They clearly are the best at getting that information and using it to accomplish the mission.

One of the last groups I spoke with on my visit was a group of Master Chiefs, and Master Chief Ryan Hartman summed up why the Navy and this program is an excellent choice for a young person. "In this program, you have a chance to learn valuable skills which then you can use to make an impact and be significant." If I were 18 today and someone told me I could make an impact and be significant, I would sign up, then and there.

So back to those questions, I was asking myself. I'll say this if every protentional recruit could do the visit I did they wouldn't have anyone left to fill the ships because CT is the coolest job in the Navy. More importantly what I liked was that in this specialty you're doing something important that helps keep us all safe and at the same time getting training that will almost guarantee you a great job after service.

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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)