"We must design, build, and deliver integrated capabilities for the future fight -- spanning cyberspace, electronic warfare, and information operations. We must deliver capabilities to defeat adaptive adversaries that possess constantly changing tools and tradecraft." -- Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command.
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- The 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade (Cyber) has partnered with the University of Maryland Baltimore College (UMBC) Training Center to design a Tool Developers Qualification Course (TDQC) which produces computer programmers for the U.S. Army and the fourth class graduated on July 13 at the post theater.
TDQC is an 11-month training program consisting of both formal classroom training and interactive class projects. The Soldiers enrolled in the program are tested at the completion of each of the 12 modules and are expected to achieve an 80 percent or better grade. Additionally, the Soldiers are required to complete a capstone project at the end of the course.
The goal behind the development of the TDQC was to design a progressive education curriculum where students were evaluated based upon how well they could complete individual programming assignments.
Col. Brian Vile, the commander of the 780th MI Brigade mentioned that out of the thousands of Soldiers in the 780th and 704th MI brigades the 12 TDQC graduates were joining only 56 others who had successfully completed this difficult path.
"TDQC is a critical step in building one of the Army's most specialized and critical positions -- the tool developer," said Vile. "(TDQC graduates) are expected to operate independently on real world projects, to develop solutions to some of the most challenging problems in cyberspace."
According to the brigade S-3 (operations) training section, tool developers create, develop and code computer applications, software, or specialized utility programs. They conduct comprehensive technology research to evaluate potential vulnerabilities in cyberspace systems. Finally, they detect, identify and describe vulnerabilities to network devices and operating systems.
Spc. Grant Ward, a cybersecurity specialist from Southbury, Connecticut, assigned to the 781st MI Battalion, 780th MI Brigade, was the 2018 TDQC distinguished honor graduate.
"I didn't know a whole lot of programming before I started the course. TDQC taught me everything I needed to know," said Ward. "It was a great pace, really great teachers. The assignments are very challenging. They push you to become a better programmer."
Spc. Elijah Harmon, from Renton, Washington, assigned to the 741st MI Battalion, 704th MI Bde., was the 2018 TDQC honor graduate.
"When I enlisted, all I wanted to do was to be a developer," said Harmon. "The course taught me everything I thought it would teach me and more. Even if you don't know anything about computers, as long as you have the mindset of wanting to create, and disassemble, wanting to know how things work, tinker with stuff, then you are solid."
According to Sgt. 1st Class Joel Aguilar, brigade S-3, TDQC provides an education path for individuals to become experienced at 90 percent of the identified critical developer requirements an individual must be able to articulate and demonstrate through practical application in order to be certified as a Cyberspace Solution Engineer.
In his remarks to the graduating Soldiers, Vile congratulated the Soldiers for completing the course; however, he said it really was just the beginning.
"Today doesn't mark the completion of a journey, but rather the beginning of one. Graduation today is simply a milestone in what must become a longer challenging journey," said Vile. "This course has equipped you with the basics you will need to solve our most challenging problems in cyberspace, but how you use those skills to create solutions will ultimately be your greatest problem to solve."
The 2018 TDQC Graduates are: Staff Sgt. Kirk David, C Company (Co.), 781st MI Bn.; Sgt. Jonathan Goodman, E Co., 782nd MI Bn.; Warrant Officer Jacob Harding, B Co., 781st MI Bn.; Spc. Elijah Harmon, A Co., 742nd MI Bn.; Spc. Devin Lee, Headquarters and Headquarters Co. (HHC), 780th MI Bde.; Sgt. Jeffrey Lu, D Co., 781st MI Bn.; Spc. William Marchant, E Co., 782nd MI Bn.; Sgt. Nathaniel Muesing, A Co., 742nd MI Bn.; Sgt. Christopher Pandoliano, D Co., 781st MI Bn.; Spc. Mathew Reglein, B Co., 781st MI Bn.; Sgt. Jiseng So, HHC, 781st MI Bn.; Sgt. Aisha Umar, C Co., 781st MI Bn.; and Spc. Grant Ward, C Co., 781st MI Bn.