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Army seeks soldiers, civilians for new cyber protection teams

Oct. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The Army's poster for the Cyber Missions Units. The service is looking for highly skilled soldiers and civilians for defensive platoon-sized Cyber Protection Teams.
The Army's poster for the Cyber Missions Units. The service is looking for highly skilled soldiers and civilians for defensive platoon-sized Cyber Protection Teams. (Army)
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Do you qualify?

Soldiers who want to serve with the Cyber Mission Unit should meet these qualifications:
Required■Be capable of obtaining top secret clearance and SCI
■Deployable
■Strong performance and promotion potential shown in commander’s recommendation and performance file
■Application packet submitted and complete
Desired■ASVAB GT and ST Score 110 or higher
■IT certifications: IAT Level II, IAM Level I or higher, SEC+, N+, CEH, CCNP, CCNA, GIAC, GCSC, RCHE, Linux, CISSP, etc.
■Officers: Professional and knowledgeable in cyber operations; FA 53/FA 24 (captain and major)
■Warrant officers: 255A/N/S (chief warrant officer 2 and 3)
■NCOs: 25B, 35F, 35Q (sergeant and staff sergeant), 35N (sergeant first class)
■Army civilians: 2210 (GS-11 to GS-13)
Application packetCandidates must complete and submit the applications packet with:
■Evaluation report
■Performance appraisals
■Up to five recent evaluations with SSN blacked out
■Clearance Verification Memo from unit S2/G2
How it works ■Recruiting team reviews application packet and checks for derogatory information
■Selection board evaluates packets and interviews candidates
■Coordination with Human Resources Command for PCS eligibility, or any other concerns
■Candidate approved by commanding general, 7th Signal Command
■Candidate completes Vanguard assessment test
Learn moreApply and find more information at www.7sigcmd.army.mil/CPTWeb.

The Army is recruiting hundreds of computer experts for a new force of elite cyber warriors to protect the Army's networks from sophisticated intruders.

The Army is recruiting hundreds of computer experts for a new force of elite cyber warriors to protect the Army's networks from sophisticated intruders.

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The Army is recruiting hundreds of computer experts for a new force of elite cyber warriors to protect the Army’s networks from sophisticated intruders.

Lt. Col. Philippe Persaud, commander of the newly minted Cyber Mission Unit (Provisional), said the service is looking for highly skilled soldiers and civilians to serve these defensive platoon-sized Cyber Protection Teams.

“We’re not just throwing bodies at the problem. We need very specific skill sets and very specific talents to bring this capability to fruition and to bear,” Persaud told Army Times.

Seventh Signal Command (Theater) aimed to create two such teams this summer and a dozen such teams by 2017, according to Army officials.

Persaud declined to discuss numbers and specific capabilities, citing the sensitive nature of the work, but he said the Cyber Mission Unit would eventually be comparable to a brigade.

The Cyber Mission Unit represents a sharp change in how the Army defends its networks.

In contrast with passive defense systems like firewalls and anti-virus software, which permit or block traffic based on signatures of known threats, the new unit will employ a dynamic, active defense, he said.

“What we have is a net that we’ve cast around our network to catch the big fish, but the net allows the sophisticated little fish to sneak through to our networks, and that’s where the Cyber Mission Unit comes into play,” Persaud said.

“We’ll be looking for the little fish that have gone past our defenses into our network,” he said.

The assumption is that any network used by people can be breached. The most effective tool for hackers are spear phishing attacks that mimic official emails, luring users to click on a link that leads to a hacked server and system exploit.

“Even if we have the most sophisticated passive defense systems and we’re training our people not to do these things, the threat will figure out somehow, some way to touch our networks, and we don’t want that to happen,” Persaud said.

The teams, which are still in development, will conduct global cyberspace operations to deter, disrupt and help defeat the nation’s adversaries in cyberspace. Members of the teams will use their skills and knowledge to find adversaries on a friendly network and neutralize them.

The teams will not only patrol Defense Department networks for threats, but help units and organizations assess and strengthen their networks.

The new units will have “areas of responsibility,” some to support geographic combatant commands and Army units, Persaud said.

For now, the units will be based out of Fort Meade, Md., home of U.S. Cyber Command, and Fort Gordon, Ga., home of the Army Signal Corps.

However, they could eventually be forward deployed or sent rapidly where needed to defeat a cyberattack and restore a network.

“It would be nice to be able to push this capability to the lowest edges of our formations, but unfortunately the amount of resources, the types of people we need to build these teams makes that prohibitive,” Persaud said.

“It is incredibly hard as it is, to achieve the standard skill sets,” he said.

Competitive positions

The teams will be led by a major or lieutenant colonel, typically one with software engineering experience from the Signal Corps. That officer will oversee signals and military intelligence noncommissioned officers and a handful of civilians.

“It’s a platoon full of people, but it’s a company’s worth of capability, just because the types of people and the rank structure, the skill sets, and the amount of training into these people,” Persaud said.

For the teams, the command is recruiting officers (FA 53/FA 24), warrant officers (255A/N/S) and enlisted soldiers (25B, 35F/Q/N), as well as Army civilian operators, analysts, planners, and leaders (2210).

For soldiers who qualify, the valuable skills and experience gained inside the Cyber Mission Unit could eventually lead to a lucrative civilian career, Persaud said.

The one-star 7th Signal Command (Theater) commander ultimately decides on a candidate’s packet, if the candidate makes it past a screening by a sergeant major and Persaud himself.

Candidates will have needed to show technical degrees in subjects like computer science, cyber security or electrical engineering.

Professional experience technical certifications also count in a candidate’s favor.

The Army provides six to eight months of additional training.

An inability to obtain a top secret clearance, or anything negative in the candidate’s background is a deal breaker, Persaud said.

The teams for now remain a concept in development.

“We are forging the way for what a successful cyber defense capability looks like,” Persaud said.

“We are building the plane in flight, but in the end, our cyber warriors will be highly trained and qualified. Ultimately, it will be their training, cunning and intuition that will all come together to effectively defeat the enemy in the cyber domain.”

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