JED - August 2011 - (Page 26)

EW Careers is sue By John Haystead There’s no question that there are plenty of electronic warfare (EW) jobs in the military. Pick any service and the list is pretty significant, ever changing and growing. But, steady work is not the same thing as a career path or profession. Dealing with this conundrum is a big challenge for the military right now, and one that must be recognized and addressed by not only the leadership, but by anyone considering a career in EW. SERVICES OFFER A GOOD START When their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) calls for it, a great many men and women serving in the military receive solid initial training in basic EW skills and system operation. The problem is that they are later left largely to their own devices when it comes to reaching greater levels of influence, without a clear-cut career pathway or roadmap to follow. Of course, that’s not to say, that they may not be assigned to a senior billet with major operational EW responsibilities, but only that they will often arrive there without the skills and experience they will need already in place. Additional education and training will have to come on the job. At even higher levels, where EW strategic planning or doctrine development is needed, specific posts may not even exist or, if they do exist, they’re structured as an adjunct to other disciplines. Yet, despite the obstacles, a great number of individuals have carved out an impressive and influential career in EW. COL Laurie Buckhout, US Army (Ret.), is a good example of how a successful EW career is made in the military (see her profile on page 30). “I was pulled out of communications to advance EW in the Army,” she says, “but this requirement was stood up by the warfighters, not the communications or intel guys.” Buckhout points out that since EW wasn’t in the culture of the Army, commanders consequently didn’t know to ask for it. “If you can’t conceptualize a requirement, how can you request it?” Today, however, with the Army’s attention to countering the RCIED threat, and its 2009 decision to create new EW career specialties for both officers and enlisted personnel, the situation is slowly changing. Says Buckhout, “It’s creating a demand from the field. Now, we have EW specialists spreading throughout the Army at all ranks, and they’re teaching commanders what to ask for, whether its communication disruption or shutting down the enemy’s situational awareness. It’s not happening as fast as I’d like, but it is a cultural change.” The RCIED threat has also had an impact on EW in the other services, particularly in aviation, where Navy and AF EW personnel have played a critical role in dealing with the threat, particularly early on. In fact, according to CAPT Steve Kochman, US Navy (Ret.), (see his profile on page 32), the attention paid to RCIEDs may be one reason why naval aviation EW has maintained or improved its capabilities while it has received less attention elsewhere in the service. “Aviation has done very well, building up the Prowler and Growler and making the most out of existing EW assets,” he explains, “but the Navy hasn’t put the same priority on its shipboard EW.” Kochman sees the problem being a lack of senior-level EW advocacy within the surface navy. “The Master Chiefs and Chiefs do a great job with what they have, but they don’t have the authority and influence necessary to really drive their EW programs forward.” Kochman’s observation touches directly on a larger point. Despite its well-proven importance, EW has had a de facto ceiling when it comes to offering rank and career advancement within the services. In fact, it’s widely accepted that, except in very rare cases, the colonel/captain (O-6) level is pretty much the top of the mountain in the EW career path. That’s not to say, however, that this isn’t an improvement from the fairly recent past. “Things have changed a lot since I was a junior officer,” says LtCol Kelly Dobson, USMC (Ret.), (see his profile on page 32). “Today, I have a lot of friends in the EA-6B community who have made full colonel,” he says. “That used to be more of a rarity, so we’ve made some inroads. In some ways, the issue is really one of advocacy. Because we’re such a relatively small community, we don’t have the same level of personal exposure with people on the promotion boards as some other areas might.” Dobson points to another concern within the Marine Corps EW community. “Today we’re transitioning out of a dedicated EW platform to a subset of

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - August 2011

The View From Here
Conference Calendar
From the President
The Monitor
Washington Report
World Report
Defining a Career Path in EW
Technology Survey:SIGINT/DF Antennas
Book Review
EW 101
AOC Member Page
Index of Advertisers
JED Quick Look

JED - August 2011