Cisco-trained reservists graduate

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The Army Reserves graduated its first class of students trained in Cisco Systems Inc. networking at Fort Meade, Md., June 17.

The 17 students of the 311th Theater Signal Command received the education necessary to pass Cisco's certification requirements and become industry-recognized Cisco Certified Network Associates.

The Fort Meade academy sets itself apart from the two Cisco academies begun at Fort Gordon, Ga., in 2001, by offering flexible class schedules to reservists. Fort Meade allows Reserve soldiers to receive the same training as their active-duty counterparts without having to enroll in one of the six-week, intensive courses offered in Georgia.

The Cisco academy "gave me the opportunity to get training I wouldn't have had, and is directly applicable to what I do for the Army...[the training] made me better capable to do my job," said 1st Lt. Shawn Herron, network systems engineer with the 311th TSC and recent graduate of the school.

The unit founded the academy at Fort Meade a year ago, using resources and funds already available there. The equipment was available from communication exercises at the base, and the instructors were trained at Fort Gordon.

The academy has developed a strong partnership with the Cisco and signal schools at Fort Gordon, as well as the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University to ensure that the course meets and exceeds industry standards.

The course, which meets nights and weekends for an average of six months and a minimum of 280 hours, teaches topics that are relevant to reservists both in their industry professions and in their responsibilities for providing communication capabilities to the military.

The services provided by the academy "costs thousands of dollars anywhere else, but here at the 311th, it's provided at no cost to the soldier. . .and they're getting paid," said Maj. Gen. George Bowman, commander of the 311th TSC.

The students learn network fundamentals such as design and engineering that are common for all networking software and hardware, as well as for Cisco-specific hardware. s the course advances, students learn network topology and develop the ability to build and design local-area networks.

The mission of the academy — to educate reservists in networking — is crucial to the transformation of the Army to a network-centric paradigm, according to Daniel Wiener II, chief information officer for the Army Reserve. The transformation won't be done without Cisco-certified personnel.

The graduates of the academy are "forming a foundation for enabling the way the Army will fight in the future, while providing sorely needed skills that are used in the private sector," Wiener said.

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