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NAVIFOR Leaders First Visit to CIWT

by Kurt Van Slooten
27 October 2021 Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, commander, Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR), Force Master Chief David Twiford and other key NAVIFOR staff visited the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT) on Corry Station, Oct. 13.

During her visit Aeschbach, who serves as the Navy’s Information Warfare (IW) type commander, met with CIWT leadership and staff to better understand CIWT’s mission and capabilities as the principle training entity for NAVIFOR’s workforce.

Capt. Marc Ratkus, commander, CIWT, focused on the cutting-edge training technology developments and initiatives used to enrich the learning experience of students on board Corry Station and across the CIWT domain.

Aeschbach was briefed on several initiatives CIWT invested in that best train future IW professionals.  One such initiative, the Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE) or cyber “maneuver space”, is used to train cryptologic technician (networks) (CTN) Sailors to conduct cybersecurity operations.

Using the PCTE platform, staff can develop and execute large-scale exercises with the capability for students to integrate hardware so they can use their own kits to interact with the cyber threat training scenario. This digital training environment is used to build resilient cyber defense analysts using repetitions of hands-on training for each aspect of the curriculum.

Another training innovation NAVIFOR staff saw was the Multipurpose Reconfigurable Training System (MRTS) 3D trainers, currently used on Corry Station by cryptologic technician technical (CTT) and information systems technician (IT) Sailors. The MRTS uses gaming technology that most Sailors are familiar with to replicate a real world environment with 3D imagery and touch-display panels. The MRTS allows students to interact with and maintain their equipment while also seeing the environment they will be working in once out in the fleet.

The group saw the AN/SLQ-32 v6 MRTS 3D trainer, which is used for maintenance training in the CTT course. The AN/SLQ-32 v6 is the principal Electronic Warfare system used on Navy surface ships and is a key component of the Navy’s Ship Self Defense System. Using this technology represents a substantial cost savings with significantly lower down times.

“It is imperative that we leverage advances in technology, information systems, and the sciences that offer new and creative opportunities which change the landscape of how we train and prepare our information warfare professionals,” said Ratkus. “Training systems modernization and innovations such as the MRTS 3D will posture our information warfare professionals to support fleet requirements while working within the demands of tightening fiscal constraints.”

The other MRTS system that the group interacted with was the Surface Ships Radio Room (SSRR) MRTS 3D. This type of MRTS 3D trainer is used in the IT course to help teach trouble-shooting and repair of communications systems.
Aeschbach was very interested in the MRTS 3D trainer technology and mentioned she may consider adding it as a training tool to IW Battle Labs in all fleet concentration areas.  

While at Corry Station, Aeschbach also took the opportunity to talk to members of the CIWT staff during an All Hands call. In an interview style dialogue with Twiford, Aeschbach shared some thoughts about her career as a Navy senior leader. She talked about what she saw during her visit to CIWT, and provided insight about the future of the IW community from her unique perspective.

She said, “I am really interested in determining how to get more advocacy, funding, and commitment to following through on plans to develop the MRTS and expand PCTE … and how do we get them more widely distributed.”

In reference to funding shortfalls in the training setting, Aeschbach said, "We owe you more guidance to let you know where we need you to focus your efforts in the current resource-constrained environment."

After the visit, Ratkus remarked on the fruitfulness of the day saying, “IFOR’s visit will help us facilitate top-level discussions about how we can evolve the development and delivery of the right training at the right time in the right format to meet the needs of our information warfare professionals.”

Center for Information Warfare Training delivers trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services, enabling optimal performance of information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations.

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