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 Unites States as well as at several overseas locations. To run the program, the Navy partnered with EDS, an IT company that provides business and technology solutions including information technology, applications and business process services. But instead of relying only on EDS employees to run its network operations centers (NOCs), help desks and base operations, the Navy works in partnership with the company to provide learning opportunities for experienced sailors, helping the fleet meet its overarching training needs.
Military personnel partner with EDS employees at the regional help desks, regional NOCs and base operations. Through the program, the sailors earn civilian certifications from Cisco Systems, Microsoft Corp. and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), as well as gaining much-needed hands-on experience, which they bring back with them when they are reassigned. The 60-month program functions almost like an internship, according to Lt. Antonio Scurlock, NMCI enterprise training officer for the Naval Network Space Operations Command. Sailors spend 36 months working within the NMCI detachments, and another 24 months are spent at sea. The program guarantees the Navy has certified and trained systems administrators to send back to its afloat environment, in addition to ensuring at least five years of obligated service from the sailors, two of which are spent at sea.
The program fits into the Navy Personnel Development Command’s five-vector model. This model requires individual development plans, professional development, certifications and qualifications that relate to job proficiencies, personal development and lifelong learning, and professional military and educational leadership. (For more information on how this model is applied throughout the Navy, see https://www.clomedia.com/content/templates/clo_casestudies.asp?articleid=376&zoneid=9.) The NMCI’s specific mission is to develop IT professionals who can operate, maintain and administer secure and reliable end-to-end information systems, as well as advancing professional and personal careers by applying the five vector model to learning for these sailors.
But according to Scurlock, the program is not without its challenges. The Chief of Naval Operation set out the five-vector model, and that was a challenge to prevailing attitudes and the existing culture within the U.S. Navy, he said. “He said something that was really radical and challenges all of the assumptions we have,” Scurlock said. “And it’s hard to challenge those assumptions when some of them are very deeply rooted in the senior leadership.” Communicating the Navy’s long-term needs to EDS was another challenge, Scurlock said, as was convincing the Navy of the immediate benefits of the program. Once this was accomplished, Scurlock said the challenge became ensuring that the training was appropriate and that the right certifications were chosen as goals for the sailors in the program.
According to Petty Officer Thomas Dull, a NOC agent in the program, another challenge was the partnership between military personnel and civilians, who provide a lot of the on-the-job training and mentoring for the sailors in the program. The difference between working in a strictly military setting, where sailors are accepted immediately into a new environment, and a civilian setting, where workers must prove themselves capable, was a big challenge, he said. “This is a unique partnership,” he said. “To get that day-to-day mentorship from them was an experience for us. We had to build relationships and trust to get them to open up to us and us to open up to them.”
But the partnership has proved successful, and it delivers numerous benefits, both to the sailors working through the program as well as the Navy. Previously, sailors worked through programs based on single systems, and often did not receive training on the most up-to-date equipment. In the NMCI program, this has changed, according to Dull. “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.”
For the Navy, this means that it has system administrators who can rotate back out to the fleet and apply the most updated knowledge to the systems they’re working with. “What we’re trying to do here is ensure that the certifications benefit them when they go back to their float platforms,” said Scurlock. “And when they do that it’s an immediate benefit to the fleet.” For example, if the fleet chooses to upgrade its operating systems, it now has sailors who know how to implement the new systems.
In addition to providing its sailors with technical skills, the program also develops leadership skills and other abilities needed throughout the Navy. “We’re used to going to a school, being force-fed some data, getting to a command or a ship, integrating and getting the training slowly, working ourselves up,” said Scurlock. “When you walk into the door at an NMCI detachment, you have a lot to live up to. You’ve got people standing around you with multiple certifications who are also taking on collateral duties. The challenges aren’t just negative ones—they’re challenges in leadership, perseverance, professional development.”
This translates into what the sailors take back to the ship with them when they rotate out of the NMCI detachment. According to Dull, the sailors can take a proven and practiced training plan back to the fleet and train additional sailors. There are many sailors who may want to get into the program, but are not yet qualified. By taking the training out to the ships, the sailors leaving the NMCI detachment can help expand the knowledge of the fleet. “We have a proven and practiced training plan here that you can lift out of this environment,” Dull said.