NMCI program trains IT sailors

The Navy is building up a cadre of IT sailors at sea, Rear Adm. John Cryer says.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Navy had more than 170 ships in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea with one thing in common: They were connected to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet despite being thousands of miles from the nearest Network Operations Center.

Keeping such a critical network running so far from home, no small feat, was accomplished by a crew of Navy IT specialists.

Several years ago, Navy officials realized they needed more skilled IT workers to maintain connection among the three NCMI Network Operations Centers in the United States and the IT-21 initiative, which links ships at sea to the shore-based network.

The Navy and lead NMCI contractor EDS Corp. started the NMCI IT Military Detachment program to train sailors'147 to date'to keep the portal running at shore sites and aboard ships.

The IT sailors can earn up to eight standard IT credentials under the program, including Cisco, Microsoft and other certifications.

'NMCI is clearly the Navy's enterprise network, which we absolutely rely on for critical enterprise operations,' said Rear Adm. John P. Cryer, commander of the Naval Network and Space Operations Command.

Sailors often work alongside contractor personnel in the NOCs during the 60-month training program.

Working with contractors

'It was determined a long time ago that it would be very valuable, as we stood up NMCI, to provide an opportunity for these folks to go from sea duty to shore duty to work closely with the contractors to develop skills which would be useful' for the Navy at sea, Cryer said.

The Navy is 'building up a cadre of IT sailors at sea that are very familiar with IT-21 operations and who are becoming extremely literate in the management of tough technical issues with regard to IT connectivity,' Cryer said.

Lt. Antonio Scurlock, NMCI enterprise training officer at the command, said the training program gives sailors a chance to perform numerous functions, from working the help desk and maintaining the NOC to securing and monitoring the network. Most of their time in the internship program'36 months'is spent ashore, while the other 24 months is at sea, Scurlock said.

The program trains sailors to administer, maintain, analyze and secure the Navy's enterprise networks. It also makes sure the Navy has highly trained system administrators available to the fleet, Scurlock said.

Further, the program equips the sailors with IT skills they can use in future employment. 'I don't know of any training program where you get this type of hands-on training for free,' he said.

Under NMCI, EDS Corp. will provide voice, video and data communications for nearly 400,000 Navy and Marine Corps users. Currently, EDS has cut over and assumed responsibility for about 170,000 seats.

Only sailors have participated in the program thus far, but in July the first Marines will receive IT training at the NOCs.

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