Reserve unit launches Cisco Academy

To help ensure that soldiers have the technical skills necessary to support the Defense Department's communications systems, the 311th Theater Signal Command (TSC) at Fort Meade, Md., soon will become the first Army Reserve unit certified as a Cisco Networking Systems Academy.

The unit has six certified instructors who will begin teaching the first class of 20 students next month, said Maj. Bernard Smith, Cisco Academy project officer for the 311th TSC. The classes provide the training and skills required for a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification.

"Whether it's satellite, voice or data communications, they all link to a router and that can make or break you," Smith said.

Maj. Gen. George Bowman, commander of the 311th TSC, said that the unit established the school and purchased the necessary hardware and software using its own money and resources, and credited Smith, "the mastermind of this," with making that happen.

The classes normally take six weeks to complete and cost more than $2,000, but soldiers from the 311th TSC, as well any other DOD personnel and their families, are welcome to take them at Fort Meade, free of charge, Bowman said.

Because reservists split time between the Army and the private sector, the class schedule can be tailored to meet their needs, taking up to six months to complete, Smith said, adding that students can also receive college credits for their work.

"I just don't see a downside," Bowman said. "Dependents of soldiers can train as long as there are seats available, and we'll even give [reservists] time during the training day. The [information technology] skills are just that necessary."

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