A new television program slated for 2014, Intelligence, uses U.S. Cyber Command as its inspiration. Focused on a former Navy SEAL, played by Josh Holloway, this new intelligence operative has a unique gift -- a microchip implanted in his brain that allows him to access the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

The show is totally fictional; however, the convergence of cyber with pop culture is indicative of its growing prominence. Just as the CSI and NCIS series generated great interest in forensic crime scene investigations, Intelligence may also reach and inspire a new generation interested in working cyber missions.

The U.S. Army has this exciting new world covered with a new military occupational specialty for enlisted personnel in the intelligence field: cryptologic network warfare specialist (35Q).

Like air, land and sea, the Department of Defense recently recognized cyberspace as an "operational domain." The Army created the 35Q specialty to take advantage of capabilities in cyberspace and to exploit its potential.

Cyber threats continue to grow in both numbers of attacks and sophistication of intrusions. Like traditional combat, the Army must have a force trained, organized and equipped for network warfare. The new 35Qs are a critical component of that force, helping to ensure access to and freedom of maneuver within cyberspace.

"Soldiers in the 35Q MOS are cryptologic network warfare experts in the newest military intelligence field," according to Master Sgt. Dan Gutierrez, 35Q cryptologic network warfare senior enlisted advisor, Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence, Army G-2.

A majority of 35Qs are assigned to the Army's premier network warfare unit, the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade. Headquartered at Fort George G. Meade, Md., the brigade activated a second battalion at Fort Gordon, Ga., and will stand up future detachments in Texas and Hawaii.

"As the Army grows its cyber force, the 780th MI Brigade, we are essentially the Army's brigade combat team, or action arm, in cyber," said Col. Jennifer G. Buckner, commander, 780th MI Brigade.

Working closely with their joint service and U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command mission partners, the 35Q performs digital network, malware forensics and intelligence analysis, as well as target development.

"Our foundation is our intelligence expertise, but equally important, we are an operational force. We not only provide intelligence support to cyber, we also conduct full-spectrum cyberspace operations," added Buckner.

Becoming a 35Q is neither quick nor easy. It requires 10 weeks of basic training and 27 weeks of advanced individual training with on-the-job instruction.

"Soldiers become experts in specialized computer skills such as protocol analysis, programming, active exploitation, discrete math, intelligence, analysis and more," said Gutierrez.

That's just the beginning of a lengthy and continued training path, along with joint qualification and professional certifications.

"The specialty requires not just technical proficiency, but superiority," cautioned Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Hoke, 780th MI Brigade.

"It's definitely challenging to build cyberspace operations personnel because the training is resource intensive, both in terms of cost and time," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Al Mollenkopf, technical advisor, 780th MI Brigade. "It really takes years of professional development and on-the-job training to gain sufficient experience to significantly contribute to the mission."

The specialty is also unusual, in that expertise isn't always commensurate with rank.

"We have some extremely talented young specialists working missions of national significance," said Hoke. "They're that good."

As with all new things, come new challenges.

"The training is challenging, but ultimately, the investment we make in these 35Qs pays tremendous dividends," said Buckner. "As a part of the Cyber Mission Force, we help defend the nation in cyberspace. Our Soldiers and civilians support an incredibly important mission, and they are in the fight, everyday."

Page last updated Wed January 29th, 2014 at 00:00