Signal University provides mission-critical knowledge

Scott Teder, an instructor, reviews topics with Soldiers in an ETA Fiber class at Fort Hood, Texas. Soldiers and civilians across the Army can attain various certifications related to information technology through Signal University courses. | U.S. Army photo by Mr. Justin Eimers, CECOM

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. — Over the past 12 years, Tobyhanna Army Depot personnel have taken advantage of a program providing Soldiers and civilians mission-critical knowledge, skills and certifications needed to carry out their jobs.

Managed by the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), the Signal University concept has grown from a small division of 10 personnel to a network of locations around the globe. Since the university’s inception, tens of thousands of students have gone through courses ranging from A+ and Network+ Certification to Project Management Institute and Project Management Professional training.

Beginning in 2005 as the CECOM Training Support Division, several logistics assistance representatives at Fort Gordon, Georgia, developed an introductory information technology networking course. Signal Universities in 11 locations, including Hawaii, Kuwait and Fort Hood, Texas, were created four years later to expand the division’s mission and enable greater access to certificate programs at major operational unit locations.

Chris Eckerman, information technology specialist in the C4ISR Directorate’s Central Software Support Section at Fort Hood recently completed the CompTIA certification prep courses for Network+ and CASP (CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner). His experiences have provided invaluable and instant benefits.

“As an IT specialist assigned as a field software engineer, I can apply what I learned at Fort Hood Signal University directly to what I do on a daily basis to assist in securing the Army’s networks,” he said. Eckerman also completed the A+ Certification prep course in 2013.

Fort Hood Signal University

Each university location is run by a Department of the Army civilian and a number of contracted instructors from several defense industry partners. Fort Hood Signal University supports all Army III Armored Corps units and is the largest site, comprised of five classrooms and dock space at a training facility where equipment can be hooked up for hands-on training. With all Signal Universities, as network technology matures and new capability is added, curriculum adapts so Signal Soldiers and civilians can receive up to date certifications and expertise on capability ranging from routers to wireless technology and cabling.

IT Specialist John Roberts said the program has brought him up to speed on critical programs and systems.

“The course I took at Fort Hood has allowed me to thoroughly understand our current page and operations,” said Roberts, who completed the Microsoft SharePoint Designers Certification course in January. “I left the class with a feeling of accomplishment and competency thanks to clear and precise instruction.” Roberts works in the C4ISR Directorate’s Central Reset Section.

Signal University is shifting its focus as the Army continues its ever-growing cyber emphasis. The cyber network defender military occupational specialty plays a crucial role in cyber security and requires classes not currently offered at Signal University. To provide the necessary courses, mobile training teams are deployed to various university locations to meet demands. One of the required courses is the Cyber Digital Master Gunner course, a three-week program that focuses on the increasingly important fields of offensive and defensive network activity, such as hacking and scanning for enemy vulnerabilities.

“This is something we’ve really got to be on point with,” said FHSU Commandant Jeffery Foraker, adding that the Army is looking to maintain a certain number of cyber DMGs.

Vendors have made certification tests more difficult in recent years to ensure Soldiers stay ahead of the technology curve. Foraker said this has effectively increased the significance of each certification.

“It has been a challenge for us to teach each class more effectively in preparation for the tests, but it has always been our mission to help Soldier’s do their jobs,” he said. “The Army values what we are doing and is starting to allocate more resources for Signal University,” said Foraker.

Jonathan Jenney, a former 25N tactical systems operator with the 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, can speak first hand to the benefits Signal University provides. Jenney was working his way through the Senior Level Military Transition Assistance Program and was notified of an internship opportunity under Foraker at FHSU.

“There was an agreement between him and my unit commander to release me for six months to teach at FHSU as a Soldier-instructor,” said Jenney. “It gave me an introduction to civilian life while providing the opportunity to take some classes while I was teaching.” Jenney received his A+ Certification through FHSU and speaks highly of the experience.

Two additional Signal University locations are set to open this year at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and in the Republic of Korea.

By Justin Eimers , CECOM

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