BE AN ARMY COMPUTER GUY OR GAL

     The soldier whose job is to setup and maintain computer networks and systems. Help people with computer problems, including swapping components, such as drives and motherboards, and routers, and keep all the computer systems operating, is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 25B Information Technology Specialist. These are the Army IT professionals. I have written before (see my article COMPUTER HACKER) about MOS 17C Cyber Operations Specialist, those are Top Secret people hidden away doing Top Secret stuff. The 25B’s are the everyday, every unit, computer professionals, who keep the systems up and running.

                                             25B Installing a motherboard.

     This is, with doubt, one of the best Army jobs that transfers directly to lucrative civilian jobs, and because the Army will turn you into an IT professional, it requires a five year enlistment The Army now communicates just like the rest of the world communicates, by computer, so it has a lot of IT professionals to keep it communicating, securely. Shoot, move, and communicate is what the Army does. That puts 25B in the Signal Corps. The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 25B is currently 20 weeks long at the Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. This story is specifically about MOS 25B IT Specialist, I will follow it with another about other signal jobs, because the Signal Corps is currently undergoing a major overhaul.
First, this MOS requires a SECRET security clearance, because of the information to which they are exposed, so a person needs to be squeaky clean, other than minor traffic tickets. Getting a SECRET security clearance means a background check, which includes a national agency check, public and financial records search, and depending what that reveals, maybe personal interviews.
What a 25B IT Specialist does.
     Install, operate, and perform unit maintenance on multi-functional/multi user information processing systems, peripheral equipment and auxiliary devices. Perform input/output data control and bulk data storage operations. Transfer data between information processing equipment and systems. Perform Battlefield Information Services (BIS) consisting of printing services, publication management, files, form management, reproduction services, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Privacy Act (PA), unit distribution/official mail, correspondence management and classified document control. Troubleshoot automation equipment and systems to the degree required for isolation of malfunctions to specific hardware or software. Restore equipment to operation by replacement of line replaceable unit (LRU). Perform system administration functions for the tactical DMS. Install, operate, performs strapping, re-strapping, PMCS and unit level maintenance on COMSEC devices. Assist in the design, preparation, editing, and testing of computer programs. Draft associated technical documentation for program reference and maintenance purposes. Modify existing application packages using application, and operating system software, appropriate computer language commands and files.
     That includes helping non-computer literate people, and going back in after work to install something for a commander or a section that is working late on a big project. You may be a hero, and you may be just that invisible computer person that makes it work. To be that successful IT Specialist, that gets out of the Army and directly goes to work at three times the salary, you also have to do more on your own. Ten years ago, a 25B, preparing to leave the Army, wrote that he had been accepted by Homeland Security at $85,000 a year. Certifications must be obtained on your own, and they are necessary both in the Army and required in the civilian market. A+ N+ Sec + are stepping stones, then CCNA.

                                                 25B Troubleshooting.

                    25B setting up a VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal)

                              25B Quick set up training in the field on a VSAT.

Where are 25B’s assigned. Anywhere and everywhere in the world there are US Army soldiers. That includes any type of unit, signal units, medical units, and combat units. There are 25B’s in every Brigade Combat Team, Rangers, and Special Forces (they are not Green Berets, but they assigned to Special Forces Groups).
     Understand this, Army IT Specialists are soldiers, first. Just as every soldier is a soldier first. Basic Combat Training is as intense and thorough now, as it has ever been. It is 12 to 14 hours days, six days a week for 10 weeks, converting people from civilian to soldier. Every soldier in the Army, regardless of job, must pass the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) once annually, and qualify with their rifle and go through the gas chamber once annually. Two big things that help soldiers get promoted are their ACFT score and weapons qualification score. You can be the smartest computer geek in your unit, but if your PT (Physical Training) score starts going down, you will see dumb guys being promoted ahead of you. The Army is absolutely serious about physical conditioning. The ACFT has one scoring system, no compensation for sex or age. Just, is this soldier fit to perform in combat.
     Some comments from 25B’s. One 25B Staff Sergeant, with seven years in the Army, wrote this; “It is a very rewarding job personally, but don’t expect to be seen or awarded for doing your job or going above and beyond within the field. You’re barely noticed because if you keep updates and software up to date, then you will never see users unless they need a password reset of their account is locked out.” He also said this; “Try to broaden your opportunities from the start and you will surpass your peers. This is a hard MOS to get promoted in, but I made staff Sergeant in 6 years by being certified, working hard, and going above and beyond to learn things I have never touched before.” Another said; “If you’re the most knowledgeable guy in your section, you’ll get 0 classes because they don’t want you to not be there. You’ll never PCS (Permanent Change of Station), because your unit doesn’t want you to leave. You’ll get calls to come back in because the commander needs some random stuff installed.” Another said that units seem to put a death grip on good 25B’s.
     The requirements to enlist for this MOS are meet the requirements to enlist in the Army, and be able to get a secret security clearance, and score above 95 on the ST (Skilled Technical) part of the ASVAB. The ST consists of the following tests; General Science, Verbal Expression, Mathematics Knowledge, and Mechanical Comprehension. A score of 95 is not very high. A person that will succeed in 25B should have GT and ST scores in the 120’s. Completion of high school algebra is also required, plus normal color vision. Other attributes you should also have to succeed in this MOS. You should be a computer person. Not just someone who uses a computer and thinks this would be a lucrative career, but a person fascinated with the computer and its operating system, someone familiar with TCP/IP who can setup a network with a router and multiple computers and printers. Comments from current and former 25B’s concerning AIT are that being a computer person before enlisting in the Army is a big plus in AIT. Some said that the Army teaches you everything you need to know in AIT, which is true, but if you’re not already computer literate, AIT is much harder. One 25B suggested buying 2 PC’s, some networking hardware (cisco) (2 routers and 2 switches) and start learning how they all work. Another said; “Don’t do that, download GNS3. If you’re smart enough to get the OS for the routers, you can set it up. Gives you access to multiple vendors, lets you emulate big hardware to do things like string together MPLS backbones, BGP peering, lets you generate traffic to send across the virtual devices and it has a great community.” Another said that may be true, but there’s nothing like handling the actual equipment. All said, study, study, and study in AIT.
     AIT for 25B will probably be more than 20 weeks for civilians reading this. About half of MOS 25L Cable Systems Operator/Maintainer is being consolidated into 25B. Those are the guys sitting next to a terminal placing a thousand little multi-colored wires in their proper place. My guess is that it is going to be 23 or 24 weeks. AIT at Fort Gordon appears to be somewhat more restrictive that AIT’s at other posts. Much more freedom than in basic, but almost no free time during the week. Several said that there are multiple (four to five) accountability formations a day, and to definitely be early to each. Three people to a room, with three bunks and wall lockers, but one desk and chair, and one bathroom. Everything has to be locked up during the day, so don’t bring an old desktop PC. Happy AIT students are those who like sitting in their room playing games or working on their computer. Another wrote about AIT; “I worked with computers before I came here so it was fairly easy for me, but there is a high failure rate here. My class started with 25 and only 12 made it to graduation on time. (Failing a block gets the student recycled back to another class.) It’s basic computer knowledge but if you don’t have experience with computers people have a hard time unless they bust their tail. Simplest advice I can give you is, keep your head down, stay on top of your security clearance and orders so that you will leave on time. I’m going to be a holdover for a while because I thought my staff sergeant would handle things without me bugging him, but they deal with a lot of people, so start reminding them from day one, need security clearance, orders and a sponsor to leave on time.”
     In the IT world, certifications and knowledge appear to be valued more that degrees, although for some government jobs, a bachelors degree is required. In the Army, certifications and knowledge are also highly valued in the 25B world, but to get promoted, the Army wants civilian education. Several said that they got 18 to 20 semester hours awarded for 25B AIT, but Purdue Global indicates, on their site, that they award 57 credits (1.5 quarter credits = 1 semester hour) for 25B AIT, which translates to about 38 semester hours. They require 90 quarter credits for an Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology degree.

                                  Sample 25B resume from a few years ago.

     My personal suggestion for 25B’s or anyone enlisting in the Army is take the airborne option, if you can get it, even if you have to wait a few weeks. Jumping out of airplanes is not only one of the biggest thrills in life, it puts you in an airborne unit, like the 82nd Airborne Division, or the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, or the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Alaska, or in a Special Forces Group, or in other airborne units at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Airborne units are the most elite units to which you can be assigned after just going through regular training, plus the three week airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. Overall, combat units have better leaders, higher morale, and are better organized.
     MOS 25B is not always available, you may have to wait several weeks to get it. There are thousands of 25B’s in the Army, but many slots are taken up by high school seniors, who start their processing long before high school graduation. A person enlisting for MOS 25B, spending five years in the Army, and then getting out, should have a stack of IT professional certifications and at least a bachelors degree in computer information systems. If not, they were lazy.

                             25B AIT student learning to set up a main router.

 

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