PENSACOLA, Fla. – The first three officers in the Navy’s newest officer designation 1880, Maritime Cyber Warfare Officer (MCWO), started training in Computer Network Operator Qualification Course (CNOQC), which is being taught for the first time at Information Warfare Training Command Corry Station, on July 10, 2023.
The new MCWOs will join with enlisted Sailors in CNOQC to receive basic level training for offensive cyber operations provided to Interactive On-Net (ION) operators, as the first step toward creating Maritime Cyber Warfare Officers with on-keyboard skills.
“We have offensive and defensive sides of cyber,” said Cmdr. Gil Baughn, cyber program manager for the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT). “For me and for and lot of other folks, you want an officer to be able to be able to go to either side and be able to manage teams on the offensive or defensive cyber mission.”
“Having folks that are extremely skilled in cyber is more critical now than ever before,” said Baughn. “The control of information has always played a role in war. But with the speed that everything travels now, the complexity of networks; and how infrastructure operates, and how critical infrastructure is; everything depends on that interconnectivity across the internet.”
“Our defensive side protects our infrastructure and denies the enemy access to it,” said Baughn. “However, to our adversaries that same infrastructure is important for them to protect, and we need to have people on our offensive teams that can go in, target, and exploit vulnerabilities in their systems.”
As the Navy’s cyber training provider, CIWT’s goal is the create Sailors and joint service members in the officer and enlisted ranks who excel in providing those cyber capabilities.
“The Navy is committed to meeting current and future cyber capability requirements. Naval Information Forces and key leaders in IW domain closely examined the IW construct and determined it did not adequately support multiple tours in the cyber mission area,” said Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, commander of Naval Information Forces. “Creation of the MCWO designator creates a career path for those officers to specialize in the cyber mission and develop their unique and critical skillset.”
The three newest MCWOs attending CNOQC, Ens. Trady Chouaib, from Union City, Calif.; Ens. Kevin Bae from Gaithersburg, Md.; and Ens. Hans Cabrera, from Elkridge, Md.; are all excited about the opportunity they received in being selected for the 1880 designator to work in the cyber career field.
Chouaib, whose degree is in computer networks and cybersecurity, came into the course with some Navy experience as well. Prior to commissioning through Officer Candidate School, he served for six years in the cryptology technician networks rating, which recently transitioned to cyber warfare technician, and did a tour at Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii, where he was on the 26th Cyber Protection Team.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Chouaib. “It’s surreal being back here (at Corry Station, where he attended his enlisted cryptology technician networks training) and being offered the chance to be one of the first MCWOs.”
Bae went to the Naval Academy with the goal of working in the cyber field. He received his commission after graduating with a degree in cyber operations and math. He said being selected for the maritime cyber warfare officer designation was the reason he joined the Navy and was exactly what he had hoped for.
Cabrera was also commissioned through the Naval Academy, and graduated with a degree in computer science and information technology. He was originally interested in becoming a cryptologic warfare officer, but is looking forward to the challenge of becoming a MCWO.
“I think cyber is going to be a really big part of whatever conflict we're going to be in next,” said Cabrera. “It’s very essential to the mission that the Navy has.”
The MCWOs attending CNOQC are anticipated to graduate from the course in Jan. 2024.
New officer accessions into the MCWO designator will also be filled through a re-designation opportunity, which will likely be offered at first only to Information Warfare officers in all paygrades, with the first selection panel to held in late 2023.