Training the Warfighter On (and In) the Cloud

War Fighter Cloud Military

Locked in our technology siloes, the word “cloud” has become common vernacular. Working in IT, we know what it means, and we know at this point the kind of potential cloud computing unlocks. It’s not a big step to say that it will underpin technological innovation for the foreseeable future.

Step outside that tech bubble, and the cloud’s immense value is starting to come into focus. On the battlefield, for example, it’s having lasting implications on the way we conduct military operations. But those soldiers don’t have their head in the cloud every day.

As our military service branches work to safeguard land, sea, air, and space, the fifth dimension of warfare–cyberspace–is becoming the means to secure all others. It’s highlighting the pivotal importance of training the warfighter to become as comfortable with cloud as the savviest technologists.

How do we train the warfighter on the cloud? We do so in the cloud itself.

The Data Incubator, a born-in-the-cloud startup, was tasked in late 2017 with developing data analytics and machine learning courses for the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). Soldiers gain skills with direct effects on combat–like modeling weather patterns ahead of sensitive missions–and likewise in that fifth dimension, thwarting would-be cyberattacks.

“We are at a transition point in the adoption of cloud services in the military. They are open and are eager to learn how to leverage these tools to their fullest potential,” said Mike Anderson, The Data Incubator’s chief strategy officer.

That curriculum is deployed on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which Anderson said “opens up a whole new world for [military personnel] in terms of innovation and cutting-edge technology.” The training creates data scientists who fill unmet needs in the cyber workforce, and in return, they get a sustainable career path following active duty.

Across the board, we’re seeing consistency in that approach.

AWS, for example, lends their hand to military training, with an AWS Educate program that provides cloud career training to 10,000 U.S. veterans, transitioning military personnel, and their spouses. The program also offers job placement and direct applications to a host of global organizations.

It’s a climate ripe for learning, and very particular type of learning at that. We talk about cloud “environments,” but that’s just what’s needed: an open environment, a training ground, maybe a battlefield, depending on what’s at stake.

“Data science is fundamentally about exploring. You have to get your hands on the keyboard,” said The Data Incubator’s founder and CEO Michael Li. With curriculum that resides in a cloud environment, students have free rein to experiment with the code they write and learn on the fly. Because it’s cloud-based, they get the choice of how and where they want to work.

That sort of flexibility prompted a push from the Army, starting in 2013, to migrate its training materials to the cloud. Facilitating ease of access often leads to better outcomes, and AWS representatives at their recent Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C said customers in government are now creating “increasingly more sophisticated and complex architectures” on the AWS platform.

Sessions at that summit were largely community-led: those with success on the platform seemed eager to share best practices for government and specific military use cases.

Nothing comes easy, to be sure, but across the Federal space, we’re seeing an uptick in cloud adoption, interest, and finally the resources to create new experts in the field.

As the military moves further into autonomy and data-intensive tasks in remote locations, the need for resilient, unconstrained networks is paramount. Giving the warfighter the network and tools to make the most of that valuable training is where cloud will ultimately provide the tactical advantage.

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