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CHIPS Articles: Navy Information Systems Technicians: Paramount to Readiness and Lethality

Navy Information Systems Technicians: Paramount to Readiness and Lethality
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo B. Greene III, Center for Information Warfare Training - March 12, 2020
PENSACOLA, Fla. -- In the Navy, some ratings grow by changing, and some rates grow or improve by merging. The information systems technician (IT) rating is an example of all these. The rating has also changed throughout the years to better support warfighting capabilities while also providing Sailors opportunities to grow professionally together.

ITs design, install, operate and maintain state-of-the-art information systems technology including local and wide area networks, mainframe, mini and microcomputer systems and associated peripheral devices; they write programs to handle the collection, manipulation and distribution of data for applications; perform the functions of a computer analyst; handle all forms of telecommunications through transmission media; apply diagnostic, corrective and recovery techniques to all facets of integrated information systems and provide telecommunications and computer-related training and assistance to a wide variety of personnel.

Though the rating has the two specialties, the community of ITs has to work together to solve problems during their job.

“It’s important to put all parts of the rating together to make a job succeed,” said Chief Information Systems Technician Randall Fenby, an IT training manager at CIWT. “There’s a fluctuating opinion about making the rating stronger by splitting into two or more specializations. Typically this is seen as the radio versus computing. The difficulty is knowing where the line stops, and some of the systems we use touch on all of those sections. So instead of one tech, you’d need specialists who might disagree on where the problem actually is. In that sense, it’s a challenge. I’ve worked in many places where there’s been good working relationships with the different divisions, and heard tales of grief of it not working; it’s like anywhere else, for us to succeed, we have to work together.”

The impact of ITs is critical in regards to the information warfare community. Through training and troubleshooting, ITs are one of the major defenses against adversaries to the country.

“ITs have a huge impact in the cyber world; the interconnectivity of the systems means that security has to be strong as well,” added Fenby. “If you’re always connected, it’s like a castle with the drawbridge down all the time. Sure, we can pull the drawbridge up and stop people from coming in, but that means that we can’t get out either. And the drive is to stay connected, which means the guards have to be doubly vigilant. A castle is not only as strong as the walls and the guards, but everyone that lives there as well. Therefore, cyber security training is a large issue as well. When a user saves their password on an unprotected file, or writes it down on an openly visible location it’s like making a hole in the wall and not telling the guards or the masonry people that can fix the hole.”

With the IT rating being technology-centered, the jobs and tasks they handle grow hand-in-hand with the growth of technology. In the years that ITs have existed, the procedures and responsibilities have often changed.

“I remember we used to use Defense Message Dissemination System (DMDS) for message traffic. There was so much that went into it just to get messages sent to people’s inbox,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Jerry C. Toney Jr., an instructor assigned to Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station. “Fast forward to now, we’re light years ahead of where we were. That’s just an example of one of the many things that we handle that changed. The rating is growing, and we are responsible for a broad spectrum of things. We may not be perfectionist on everything in our rating because of that growth, but we do a good job of using the changes in our technology to help us move forward with what we know and what we can do.”

To accommodate the changes that come with the technology, new accession Sailors who are trained to be fleet ITs are being taught the things they need to know to meet the requirements of their job. At IWTC Corry Station, future ITs are being taught on all of the relevant skills they need to be a knowledgeable asset once they reach the fleet. With new Sailors joining generally having some sort of technological background, the Navy is set to have better ITs continuously joining the fleet.

“Many of the Sailors who are joining the Navy are a lot smarter than older Sailors were when they joined,” shared Toney. “They were exposed to technology almost all their lives every day. With that being the case, they’re always thirsty for knowledge, always trying to find the next best thing. That helps the Navy because with these Sailors having that affinity to tech, they can see pitfalls and problems that they run into on their own systems and their own things. They can use those skills they’ve acquired on their own. That makes them a better asset off the bat coming into the Navy. I think that knowledge and Sailors wanting to keep growing is just going to make the rating better, and hopefully it will continue to get better.”

With four schoolhouse commands, two detachments, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT) is recognized as Naval Education and Training Command’s top learning center for the past three years. Training over 21,000 students every year, CIWT delivers trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.

See what the Center for Information Warfare Training is all about, visit www.navy.mil/local/cid/, www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ciwt, www.facebook.com/NavyCIWT, or www.twitter.com/NavyCIWT.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (March 10, 2020) - A graphic showing the enlisted information warfare specialist pin and information systems technician (IT) rating badges. ITs are some of the many thousands of Sailors training, preparing and defending America around the world as information warfare warfighters. (U.S. Navy graphic by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo B. Greene III/Released)
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