The Army is launching a multi-tiered campaign of selection panels and reclassification opportunities for active-duty commissioned officers, warrant officers and enlisted soldiers to join the new cyber career branch and the service's emerging Cyber Mission Force.
While long-term plans call for the cyber career force to expand into the reserve components, ongoing accession, branch transfer and reclassification options are designed to build a team of 355 officers, 205 warrant officers and 700 enlisted soldiers.
These soldiers will be trained and employed in area of concentration 17A (cyber officer), warrant officer military occupational specialty 170A (cyber operations technician) and enlisted MOS 17C (cyber operations specialist).
Senior Army leaders authorized the establishment of Army Cyber Branch last September, the service's first new career branch since Special Forces nearly 30 years ago.
The newly created Cyber School at Fort Gordon, Georgia, will train its first class of lieutenants this summer, followed by captain, warrant officer and noncommissioned officer courses in 2016, and the first Advanced Individual Training course for privates in early 2017.
The Army began building the commissioned officer component of Cyber Branch last December with the convening of a Voluntary Transfer Incentive Panel, which is the system used by the Human Resources Command to move officers from one career branch or functional area to another.
Col. Robert Duke, chief of HRC's operations support division, said the command will start recoding the selected officers this month so they will become available for cyber training and assignments.
A second VTIP panel will meet June 22-30 to consider the applications of Regular Army officers in the ranks of second lieutenant through colonel who are seeking branch transfers to Cyber. The application deadline for that board was May 20. Officials expect the results of the panel will be available by the second week of July.
"The December panel selected about 43 percent of the requirement, and [the] upcoming panel will take us to nearly 100 percent," Duke said.
The in-service accessions campaign for commissioned officers is complemented by a recruiting effort among West Point, Reserve Officer Training Corps and Officer Candidate School cadets, officials said.
The enlisted staffing strategy for Cyber Branch has two major components: an automatic transition process for soldiers serving in cyber-related units, and reclassification opportunities for soldiers who apply for transfer to MOS 17C, and who can meet the rigorous entrance standards set by the Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon.
The automatic transition process is targeted at soldiers who hold the additional skill identifier E6 (interactive on-net operator) or a cyber-related skill and who are assigned to the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, the 7th Cyber Protection Brigade and the Joint Force Headquarters for Cyber, according to Sgt. Maj. Brett McIntire, sergeant major of the Cyber School in Fort Gordon.
"These soldiers will reclassify automatically unless they opt out," McIntire said. "We are trying to make this transition as seamless as possible."
The transition to 17C is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2015.
"Soldiers in the ranks of promotable sergeant first class and master sergeant who are assigned to the designated units will have to opt-in to transition to 17C," McIntire said.
They can do this by submitting a DA form 4187 (personnel action request) through command channels to the Cyber Center as stipulated in MilPer Message 15-165, dated June 2.
The Army expects to reach an 80 percent strength level for the enlisted component of Cyber Branch by 2016, according to McIntire.
NCO Education System courses for cyber soldiers are under development, "and our expectation is to start teaching those — the Advanced Leader Course and Senior Leader Course — next year," McIntire said.
The voluntary reclassification option for enlisted soldiers not assigned to the three designated units has application procedures similar to those required for noncyber specialties, according to Jim Bragg, chief of HRC's enlisted retention and reclassification branch.
Bragg recommended that soldiers consult MilPer Message 15-164, dated June 2, to determine if they meet the eligibility requirements, and their local career counselor who can answer questions regarding the reclassification process.
Application packets should be prepared in accordance with the instructions available at the Army Cyber School website.
"This specialty (17C) is one of several 'by-application' MOSs in which the proponent organization evaluates the application (rather than the Human Resources Command)," Bragg said. "Once the evaluation is completed, and the proponent (the Cyber Center of Excellence) determines if the soldier meets the MOS requirements, it will notify HRC (for finalizing the reclassification)."
Because cyber is a high-priority for the Army, "we will let soldiers apply regardless of the in/out calls for their current MOS," Bragg said. The final determination of eligibility of yes/no will be made by HRC based on strength management and personnel readiness considerations.
Also, if a soldier received a retention bonus for their current MOS, and he or she is approved for reclassification, the Army will not recoup the unearned portion of the bonus.
However, Bragg emphasized that soldiers who are approved and trained for reclassification will be required to serve in that new MOS for at least three years.
"This is a fantastic career opportunity for soldiers who want to remain in the Army, but the application criteria is strict," he said.
The advanced individual training course required of soldiers who reclassify to 17C has two phases, each more than 20 weeks long and requiring a permanent change of station move.
The first phase is conducted at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, and the second at Fort Gordon. This means soldiers who successfully complete the basic specialty training regimen for 17C will make two moves during the nearly one-year train up for MOS certification.
The third leg of the Cyber Branch personnel component is comprised of warrant officers who will serve as cyber operations technicians.
CW5 Mark Mollenkopf, the Cyber Center of Excellence command chief warrant officer, said that because the Army's the cyber force has a team construct, and is a very technical field, "there are going to be a lot (205) warrant officers distributed across those teams," and they will play a critical role in executing the service's offensive and defensive cyber missions.
The Army will begin building that force by offering MOS 170A transfers to qualified warrant officers in other specialties who have the skills and experience that relate to cyber requirements in the grades of WO1 through CW5.
As described in the accompanying story, and in MilPer Message 15-166, dated June 4, the accessions process for eligible in-service warrant officers will begin Aug. 3 with the convening of an MOS 170A transfer panel.
Beginning next year, the 170A buildup will include warrant officer appointment opportunities for in-service enlisted soldiers with apprentice- and journeyman-level skills in areas that can lead to master-level competencies in cyber, according to CW3 Richard Fincher of the Cyber Center.
Professional military education for 170A warrant officers will commence next March with the convening of a WO Advanced Course, and in August for the first WO Basic Course.
Here is the implementation timeline for Cyber Branch training:
- August: Basic Officer Leader Course, area of concentration 17A (Cyber Officer)
- February: Captain Career Course, AOC 17A
- March: Warrant Officer Advanced Course, MOS 170A (Cyber Operations Technician)
- June: NCO Advanced Leader Course, MOS 17C (Cyber Operations Specialist)
- June: NCO Senior Leader Course, MOS 17C (Cyber Operations specialist)
- August: Warrant Officer Basic Course, MOS 170A (Cyber Operations Technician)
- February: Enlisted Advanced Individual Training Phase II, MOS 17C (Cyber Operations Specialist)
*Note: Training to be conducted at the Army Cyber School, Fort Gordon, Ga.
Source: Army Human Resources Command