Fort McCoy News January 09, 2015

Center prepares DOD personnel for cyber defense

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

A team of instructors at the Information Assurance Training Center (IATC) at Fort McCoy is preparing Department of Defense personnel for cyber defense action on the virtual battlefield.

Photo for IATC article
Donald Puck (center), instructor at the Information Assurance Training Center, briefs students on courses of action during a lesson for a class in building 50.

The IATC, located in building 50, is aligned under the U.S. Army Signal Center of Fort Gordon, Ga. The center manages six courses — A-plus (A+), Network-plus (Network+), Security-plus (Security+), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Network Manager's Security Course (NMSC) and Computer Network Defense Course-Certified Ethical Hacking (CNDC-CEH).

"Our classes started here in 1999, and we were the first mirror training site for the Signal Center at Fort Gordon," said IATC Technical Trainer Randall Miller, who also serves as the site leader.

The IATC operates with three instructors. Miller, Donald Puck and Matt Nitka have an extensive background in information technology and Department of Defense IA practices.

"The focus of training sites like ours — there are a total of eight now — is helping students achieve certification requirements based on Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 8570.1," Miller said. "The directive specifies training and certification requirements for the DOD IA workforce."

Courses at IATC cover a wide range of cyber security and defense certifications associated with the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). For example, the CompTIA A+ certification demonstrates competency as a computer technician, Network+ measures skill as a network technician, and Security+ is a certification dealing with computer security and business-related topics such as disaster recovery and risk management.

The NMSC is a hands-on course supplementing materials covered in the Security+ course. CISSP is an independent information security certification governed by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and CNDC-CEH teaches techniques and methodologies to defend systems, networks and computer applications against the latest threats. Courses range from five days to two weeks, Miller said.

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Randall Miller and Matt Nitka, both instructors at the Information Assurance Training Center, work together to prepare course material.

DODD 8570.1 determines the basic level of training required in each course, Miller said, and the Army sets up the courses to meet requirements.

IATC teaches people from all of the DOD components, said Miller, a former Navy cryptologist. Also, other military services don't offer as much of the certification training as the IATC, so they maintain a healthy customer base.

"Since we have it, many folks come here, so they don't have to go out to the commercial sites to train, which can be expensive," Miller said. "Here, the training is free. All that has to be paid for by units is the general temporary duty costs."

The IATC holds approximately 30 classes year-round. Nitka said the classes are necessary to help protect the DOD information grid.

"The United States government has been compromised many, many times within the age of computers," said Nitka, a Navy veteran who worked in electronic warfare. "We're trying to provide a better awareness of the issues when it comes to computer networking. The vast majority of material we teach our students is not only applicable for the DOD, but also many of them will take the training home with them and use it in a residential setting."

Teaching information assurance in all the courses reinforces to all students the importance of protecting DOD information, Nitka said. "It's about making sure the data is made available, on a timely basis, and it's protected while its sitting inside a computer, being processed in a computer, or being sent from one computer to another as it is crossing the network wire. It all has to be protected."

Most students who attend IATC courses are new to their jobs, Nitka said. The instructors work closely with students to ensure success.

Puck, whose had more than 10 years of DOD computer and network experience, added that all the instructors enjoy teaching new skills to their students.

"You really get to see the comprehension in the eyes of the students as you explain things and get through to them," Puck said.

"There's a feeling, when you look out while you're explaining something, and it just kind of gels. You can see all of the students follow along. It's fulfilling in a way that I have not had in any other job."

Students appreciate all the courses available at Fort McCoy. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dylan Miller, a cyber transport craftsman from the Combat Readiness Training Center at Volk Field, Wis., attended the CNDC-CEH — a course not offered by the Air Force.

"It's pretty amazing to only have to drive 25 miles to get great training here (at Fort McCoy)," Sergeant Miller said. "Courses like these are very important because the DOD has placed a strong emphasis on computer security. I really enjoy training here, and it picks up where the Air Force leaves off on their training."

CNDC-CEH student Staff Sgt. Matthew Ruse from Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., said the training location is "great," and he knows the training will help grow his skills significantly.

"Getting certification (in this course) will make me more diverse in my abilities for future assignments," said Ruse, who is a software manager. "Not a lot of people have this training so it is good to get it done."

The IATC courses also impact employees at the Fort McCoy Network Enterprise Center (NEC). Amy Hedrick of the NEC McCoy IA Division said the IATC keeps their employees up-to-date on many requirements.

"Our IA workforce is required by regulation to obtain certification, and having the training and testing facility so close is very beneficial," Hedrick said. "The only thing it really costs us is man hours. We can send our employees over to the local schoolhouse to train and certify without the added cost of TDY. Plus, it's face-to-face training versus online. Usually having face-to-face trainers is a better option for the courses they teach.

"Once our employees are certified, they have to maintain certification by completing training requirements," Hedrick added. "The courses taught at the IATC school fulfill those obligations, as well."

For more information about the IATC and its training, call 608-388-7276, or go online to https://ia.signal.army.mil/mccoy.