Cisco hands diplomas to Army reservists

Seventeen Army reservists have become Cisco Certified Network Associates after completing free training at Cisco Systems Inc.'s Networking Systems Academy at Fort Meade, Md.

Unlike Cisco academies that train active-duty Army personnel, the one at Fort Meade offers class flexibility for reservists. Rather than traveling to Fort Gordon, Ga., they can receive the same training in Maryland.

Seventeen reservists with the 311th Theater Signal Command made up the first group of academy graduates. 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 command and an academy graduate.

The command founded the academy at Fort Meade a year ago, using resources and funds already available. The equipment came from communication exercises at the base, and instructors were trained at Fort Gordon. The academy has developed a strong partnership with the Cisco and signal schools at Fort Meade, and with Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory to ensure the course meets and exceeds industry standards.

The academy program "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 command.

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 full-time jobs and their reserve assignments, for which they support military communications. The students learn network fundamentals, such as design and engineering, that are common for all networking software and hardware, as well as for Cisco products. As the course advances, students learn network topology and develop the ability to build and design local-area networks.

The academy's mission — 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 academy's graduates 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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Learning the ropes

Fort Meade's Networking Systems Academy prepares reservists to earn certification as Cisco Systems Inc. Certified Network Associates. The certification proves mastery of network fundamentals, network management on a macro level, network design engineering, and the ability to build and design a local-area network.

The course takes an average of six months and at least 280 hours to complete. Typically, classes meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings for four hours and on Saturdays so that the reservists work around their civilian jobs. Completion of the academy course equals 12 hours of college credit.

The Academy officials hope to soon offer an additional two semesters of instruction to prepare reservists to achieve the next level of certification as Cisco Certified Network Professionals.

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