Cyber training becoming a standard for Marines, new jobs for civilians coming soon

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Drill instructors will be yelling at Marines in computer labs as well as on the training grounds soon.

The Marine Corps is in the process of making cyber hygiene a requirement for Marines who join the service in the future.

“Right now we have a culture program that we are building. It’s still pretty nascent, but in reality it’s probably starting about 20 percent right now, but with the new deputy commandant for information we hope to grow that and take it from beyond the commander’s courses and introduce it at all levels with Training and Education Command from pretty much when you stand on the yellow footprints all the way up,” U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Executive Director Gregg Kendrick said during an Oct. 3 speech during an AFCEA event in Arlington, Virginia.

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The goal is to continually instill cyber best practices in Marines from the time they shave their heads in boot camp to the moment they leave the service.

“In reality it’s more the simple ‘What can you do on a cyber hygiene side of the house?’ It’s changing passwords, it’s network security, it’s understanding what the actual real risk is and the threat to the network and making sure you clearly delineate before the nonsecure side of the house, don’t use personal email for business,” Kendrick told Federal News Radio after the speech.

Those habits are especially important as the government has seen phishing and social engineering attacks as one of the main reasons for cyber vulnerabilities.

The Marine Corps is already instilling cyber training in some of its employees. The Marines started with commander’s courses and senior executive entry level courses as places to start cyber hygiene training. Those lessons were focused on a higher level regarding what commanders can do about their networks.

The Marine Corps is currently working with Training and Education Command on incorporating cyber training in the Marine schoolhouses.

“For the School of Advanced Warfare or Marine Corps University we have sent instructors down to be able to teach at Marine Corps Command and Staff [College] for a small period of time, but eventually the service needs to be able to pick that up and inculcate it into the standard training regiment,” Kendrick said.

The possibilities for the future of cyber training in the Marine Corps are ever changing, however. While the new enlistees of today may not have certain cyber skills, the ones 10 or 20 years from now may have a completely different grasp on cyber concepts because they have been using the internet at an earlier age and learning best practices in school, Kendrick said.

“The military would just be an extension of that training,” Kendrick said. “I see a more avatar based and probably gamification [of cyber training]. You can start to win points and you can win your badges and you move forward in a deliberate and successive manner. You will come back and do the assessment to make sure you don’t forget the entry 101 training, but it’s kind of like when you get to calculus. You understand statistics and you understand finite math so you can build up to there, but calculus is still using statistics and finite math so you want to be able to continue to take that next education level across the board.”

Cyber hiring

While the Marines are trying to bolster cyber skills in the military, it’s also trying to hire talented cyber trained civilians.

MARFORCYBER is using new authorities to hiring “several hundred” new civilian cyber experts of different skills sets and levels, Kendrick said.

The command worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to get extra incentives for the Cyber Excepted Service program.

The program gives DoD broad new authorities to create a new pay and personnel system outside of the Title 5 regime that governs most of the federal workforce as part of the 2016 Defense authorization bill, believing DoD needed more flexibility to hire and fire personnel so that it could attract and retain the best and brightest. The law gives the department something close to carte blanche to create the new Cyber Excepted Service, so long as the department keeps Congress posted on what it’s up to.

“We are going to jump into the Cyber Excepted Service in January with two feet and move out very aggressively to meet the commandant’s needs and the joint warfighter’s need,” Kendrick said. “About one third of our cyber mission force and our command are civilians.”

The Marines are putting an emphasis on apprentice roles in the Cyber Excepted Service.

“The apprentice role is someone who has the technical skill set coming out of school, maybe some on the job training and they want to serve their country or they want to do public service. They would come in for three to five years and they learn what the service is about, they’d see the operational tempo and the use of skill set. They would bring energy and desire and then nascent skill sets, school training, they would gain experience, gain additional insight to a different skill set or different tool sets,” Kendrick said.

Apprentices then can grow to journeymen or masters, which are higher levels in the service. Members of the Cyber Excepted Service also have the opportunity to go into the private sector and come back into the public sector at the same or a higher position.