Beyond Basic Training: Sailors Earning Certs

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The Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) is an enterprise-wide computer network that can connect more than 360,000 Sailors, Marines and civilian employees of the Department of the Navy at more than 300 bases in the United States as well as several overseas locations. The program is run in partnership with EDS, and as part of the program, Sailors return to shore and work with civilian personnel in the network operations centers (NOCs), earning certifications and gaining hands-on experience along the way. EDS civilian employees work with Sailors at the NOCs, providing up-to-date training and certification.

Sailors must be completing a sea tour prior to beginning the program, and must have no more than 10 to 14 years of total active service. According to Lt. Antonio Scurlock, NMCI enterprise training officer, the Sailors in the programs work through a 60-month program that functions almost like an internship, and they earn certifications from CompTIA, Cisco and Microsoft. Sailors spend 36 months working in various positions within the NMCI detachments, according to Scurlock, including the help desk, systems, network, information assurance and base operations support. Another 24 months are spent at sea.


CertMag got a chance to speak with two sailors working through the program, IT-1 Thomas Dull and IT-1 Maximiliano Pino, both NOC agents at the San Diego detachment. Dull was the third sailor to come to the San Diego detachment. He said it took him some time to get his feet in the door, but now he has earned his CompTIA A+ and Network+, as well as the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Pino has also earned the A+, Network+ and MCSA, and he is currently working toward his MCSE. Dull also oversees the training and remediation for the entire program in San Diego, according to Scurlock, which includes reverse engineering courseware and focusing courseware for people who are having difficulty. Pino has additional duties as well, serving as command career counselor for the detachment, directing other Sailors in their career progression throughout the fleet.


According to Dull, one of the big challenges of the program was building trust with the civilian employees of EDS, letting them know their jobs weren’t threatened, but that the Sailors were there to learn from them. “To get that day-to-day mentorship from them was an experience for us,” he said. “When you go to a ship and you go into a shop, you’re immediate accepted into the shop and you go right to work. Here we had to build relationships and trust to get them to open up to us.”


Pino added that the hierarchical structure of NMCI is a challenge as well. “We’ve been kind of focused on how to develop our means of communicating with the civilian sector,” he said. But he also explained that certifications earn the sailors more respect from their civilian partners.


The challenges are also positive, Scurlock said. “When you walk into the door at an NMCI detachment, you’ve got a lot to live up to,” he said. “You’ve got people standing around you with MCSAs, multiple certs, who are taking on collateral duties. The challenges aren’t just negative ones—they’re challenges in leadership, perseverance, professional development—it’s not a small thing, and these guys are leading the pack.”


Working through those challenges has brought multiple benefits, according to Dull and Pino. Dull said that getting training on the latest technology releases has been a big benefit of the program. “We get the chance to work with new technology daily,” he said. “When they integrate some new software or new system into the network or into the environment, we get that daily interaction. …We get to keep our skills updated daily, and working with the civilians that we work with and being able to pick their brains and to find out what they know and use their experience to enhance ours makes us better ITs.”


Certification also delivers its own specific benefits. “I had many hours a night spent studying with my wife and child nearby, so I understand there’s pain in certifications,” said Pino. “I believe there’s a huge satisfaction in attaining these certifications, especially when you’re going back to the fleet and actually bringing something back with you that they can understand. Also, it’s an industry standard. You’re up against a bunch of engineers at this project, and now you can compete with them and see exactly where you stand.”


Dull said earning the certification validates all of the time put in both at the NOC and on the ship. “It gives you an inner confidence and it also gives you competence among your peers,” he said.


Both Dull and Pino also explained that certifications will help them advance in their careers, whether within the Navy or in the private sector.

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