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CHIPS Articles: A Short History of U.S. Navy Information Warfare

A Short History of U.S. Navy Information Warfare
Navy Information Warfare and Cryptology Community Celebrates 78 Years
By Lt. Joseph R. Holstead - July-September 2013
Naval cryptology traces its history to the Civil War, when specially trained personnel intercepted and deciphered enemy signals and formulated ways to protect their own communications. The first wireless transmission from a Navy ship in 1899 created newly assigned responsibilities in radio intelligence and communications security to Sailors and Marines.
  • In October 1928, the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ first training class of radio intercept operators convened. The school’s original location was in a blockhouse on the roof of the old Navy Department building. Graduates were nicknamed the “On-the-Roof Gang.” There are three survivors today.
  • From 1928 to 1941, the school graduated 176 Sailors and Marines who were the first enlisted radio operators and formed the vanguard of naval cryptology.
  • The evolution of naval cryptology from 1924 to 1935 gave rise to the Communications Security Group which was established on March 11, 1935. The original organization was later renamed the Naval Security Group.
  • During World War II, nearly 10,000 naval cryptologists deployed worldwide supporting every major campaign. Since then, cryptologists have played a direct role in every U.S. conflict and have evolved to meet the dynamic challenges of modern cyber warfare. Today, the community is more than 11,000 strong.

A New Era of Warfare

  • Feb. 6, 2004 –The Navy established the Cryptologic Technician Networks (CTN) rating to meet fleet requirements in computer network operations.
  • Sept. 15, 2005 – The Navy renamed cryptologic officers “information warfare officers” to reflect the expanded competencies of information operations and cyber warfare.
  • Sept. 30, 2005 – The Naval Security Group was disestablished and all missions were assumed by Naval Network Warfare Command.
  • Oct. 1, 2009 – The Information Dominance Corps was established. The Corps consists of four separate communities: IW/CT; Intelligence/Intelligence Specialists; Information Professionals and Technicians; and Oceanographers/Aerographers.
  • Jan. 29, 2010 – U.S. 10th Fleet was recommissioned, Fleet Cyber Command was established, and the dual-hatted command assumed the Navy’s cryptologic, information operations, cyber, electronic warfare and space missions.
  • Nov. 26, 2012 – Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance/Director of Naval Intelligence, and Commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet, promulgated strategies that set the course for Information Dominance for the decade.
  • March 22, 2013 – Commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet announced the winner of the 2013 Captain Joseph Rochefort Information Warfare (IW) Officer Distinguished Leadership Award. Vice. Adm. Michael S. Rogers announced Lt. Cmdr. Lemuel "Seth" Lawrence, executive officer of Navy Information Operations Command Pensacola, is the 2013 winner.
  • April 19, 2013 –U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet Sailor was named 2012 Navy Shore Sailor of the Year. Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt, Director, Navy Staff, announced that Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 1st Class Petty Officer Shannon N. McQueen, CTF 1060/Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Maryland, is 2012 Navy Shore Sailor of the Year.

The Navy views the electromagnetic spectrum-cyber environment as a primary warfighting domain. Information warfare officers and cryptologic technicians are the principal warfighters. Information warriors have been an integral part of SEAL teams in Iraq and Afghanistan and several have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duties. The IW community continues to fight and sacrifice. Chief Cryptologic Technician (SW) Christian Michael Pike died March 13, 2013 of combat-related injuries sustained while conducting stability operations in Afghanistan.

Information warfare specialists, born from naval cryptology, are directly involved in every aspect of naval operations, deploying globally to support Navy and joint military requirements. They deliver vital information to decision makers by attacking, defending and exploiting networks to capitalize on vulnerabilities in the information environment and continue to make selfless sacrifices to defend the nation.

Fast Facts and Figures

  • IW/CT warfighters execute the full spectrum of cyber, cryptology, signals intelligence, information operations, computer network operations (exploit, defend, attack), and electronic warfare missions. They operate afloat and ashore and serve at the National Security Agency, the Pentagon, Navy information operations commands and regional cryptologic centers across the globe.
  • IW/CT April 2013 end strength includes: 1,182 active duty (AD) officers; 250 Reserve component (RC) officers; and 9,617 AD and 771 RC cryptologic technicians.
  • Navy CTs are trained in a total of 114 languages and dialects.

For a list of the Navy’s cyber and information warfare commands, go to the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet website and click on the organizations tab:

Lt. Holstead is the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet public affairs officer. He can be reached at

Captain Laurance F. Safford, the "father of U.S. Navy cryptology," established the Naval cryptologic organization after World War I, and headed the effort more or less constantly until shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command.
SUITLAND, Md. (Nov. 27, 2012) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert talks about the status of the Navy during an all-hands call with the Office of Naval Intelligence and Navy Cyber Warfare Development Group commands. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor.
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