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Cyber career field looks to develop agile, all-in-one Airmen

Cyberspace support Specialty Training and Requirement Team

Master Sgt. Andrew Trainer, left, a career cyberspace support Airman, talks to career field functional managers at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Aug. 23, 2021, about some of the proposed changes to the occupation to make it a more agile, adaptable function for the Air Force. Headquarters Air Force and Major Command functional managers met at Sheppard Aug. 23-27 to discuss consolidating 3D Air Force Specialty Codes into one in the near future. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

Cyberspace support Specialty Training and Requirement Team

Army Staff Sgt. Ernest Williams (center white hat), talks with cyberspace support functional managers as students in Block 1 training learn the basics of climbing utility poles at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Aug. 23, 2021. Functional managers met Aug. 23-27 to discuss the way forward and the future of the career field for the active duty, Reserve and Guard components of the Air Force to better support and defend cyber operations. (U.S. Air Force photos by John Ingle)

Cyberspace support Specialty Training and Requirement Team

Chief Master Sgt. Denzil Hellesen, 3D0XX career field manager, talks to other career field leaders during a meeting at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Aug. 23, 2021. Career field managers from Major Commands, the Reserves and Guard met at Sheppard Aug. 23-27 to discussion a transformation of the occupation to better serve and support the Air Force's cyber capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – A meeting of Headquarters Air Force and Major Command functional managers of the cyberspace support career field wrapped up weeklong discussions Aug. 27, 2021, with one goal in mind – develop an adaptable and agile communications and cyber career field to meet Air Force requirements at the speed of need.

Chief Master Sgt. Victor Cordero Jr., the Air Force’s cyberspace support career field manager, said enlisted leaders have embraced Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s vision of accelerating change and developing agile Airmen by creating a cyberspace career field and curriculum that modernizes training while promoting mission assurance and success. To do so, he said, the career field will transition from multiple Air Force Specialty Codes to one AFSC with shred outs, or specialties within the career field.

“It’s to create an operational culture, offer cyber fundamentals and optimize with efficiencies the training content and delivery,” he said. “Having the right skills, knowledge training and experience and assess through a capstone event will help the mission when new cyber professionals arrive to execute the mission.”

Eleven AFSCs currently make up the 3D, or cyberspace support, career field. The intent is to merge the 11 into one career field – 1D7. That reclassification should happen by November 2022.

Cordero said changes made today will set the foundation for the career field’s talented Airmen to advance and focus on the right training and skills with the right attitude and culture of learning. He said as technology changes, the career field has to transform to learn, understand and master their craft for mission success and to win today’s fight in cyberspace.

“It prepares us because it gives us that training to not look at it from delivering services and capability, but in order for us to be successful to also apply the security disciplines for our Air Force to be successful,” he said.

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Ross, the Air Force Special Operations Command functional manager for the career field, said his command has used the agile, all-in-one cyberspace Airman concept for some time to better support the AFSOC missions anywhere, anytime. Because of the nature of the AFSOC mission, they’ve developed in-house training to create an expeditionary-focused, multi-disciplined Airmen to provide a broader scope and capability as a much smaller unit.

A similar model is what the Total Force is transitioning to in order to provide the same multi-disciplined Airman to the active, Reserve and Guard service. Ross said because electronics, technologies and the mediums of cyberspace are changing so fast, the existing AFSC structure isn’t as adaptable as it needs to be. The newer format, he said, is more accommodating toward technology and change.

“As AFSOC, we’ve done a really good job of pushing our trained personnel to the larger Air Force, so they’ve gotten a taste of what that is like, and they know the capability that is coming forward and the discipline that they’re going to get and the ability to get to ‘yes’ and to provide at the speed of need – that’s what it’s about and they like that,” he said. “My job is to really foster that type of attitude and that type of pipeline of production that will make the entire Air Force better.”

Ross said that when he went through his technical training at Lowry AFB, Colorado, in 1993, training was focused on specific equipment all the way down to specific components of that equipment. Today, however, technology has changed that approach.

Old copper has been replaced by fiber optics, for example. Airmen today, he said, are used to current technology, and that type of technology and expectation of training is second nature. The Air Force, however, hasn’t reached that same level as of yet.

The upcoming curriculum will better meet Airmen where they are at. Ross said the schoolhouse will be able to teach more advanced concepts to Airmen and in a much faster way that better prepares Airmen for today’s mission requirements.

Ross said this type of change should’ve happened years ago to keep up with the change cyber environment. It’s an exciting time for the career field, he said, because everyone sees the need and the why behind the transformation. Not only does it provide a much better prepared Airman for cyber defense, but it also provides a more integrated approach to a budgetary confined service.

It also provides a better-trained, better-prepared Airman to get into the cyber fight. He said it’s about providing force multipliers to the fight, not ceasing an operation or doing anything less. It’s also about enhancing the service’s cyber capability to protect its networks.

“That’s exactly what we’re after,” he said. “We’re operationalizing our career field to get after those persistent threats. We call it ‘mission assurance.’ We’re building mission defense teams. We’re transitioning from providing a service like email and infrastructure and those types of things, to operationalizing to provide mission assurance to weapons platforms to survey, secure, protect, defend and maneuver if needed so the operational mission can achieve its desired effect unimpeded.”