The cryptologic technician interpretive (CTI) rating is best known as “The Navy’s linguists.” Service members able to speak multiple languages have been the key to success in the numerous global battles. However, the role of today’s Navy linguist seems to have simplified to mere translational work, with none of the formal analytical training given to the valiant linguists in the past.
Today’s Navy linguists are recruited for their aptitude to not only learn foreign languages but also absorb the culture of different regions in the world, especially Russia and China. This is a crucial piece in the National Defense Strategy’s goal of strengthening strategic deterrence against nations that pose a threat to the United States. If the Chief of Naval Operation aims to find initiatives that will integrate the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard operations into forgotten multidomain operational concepts, this is precisely the time to begin the transformation of the CTI rating from a Navy linguist to a multidisciplined warfighter. Ready, Relevant Learning could be the mechanism to facilitate that transformation.
Ready Relevant Learning
Ready Relevant Learning (RRL) is the Navy’s long-term investment to enhance fleet mission readiness by continually improving sailors’ performance and ensuring they have the knowledge and skills to compete across the spectrum of conflict.
RRL has three lines of effort:
- Career-Long Learning Continuum
- Modern Delivery at Point of Need
- Integrated Content Development
RRL works to improve individual sailor performance and enhance fleet readiness with three major components that address the when, how, and where sailors train.
When. RRL delivers the right training at the right time in the right way so sailors are ready to operate their equipment at the extreme technical end of its capability. Currently, CTIs receive most of their training within their first six-year contract. This includes foreign language school and cryptologic language school. In addition, CTIs complete weekly language maintenance and annual language refreshers. No other formal training is provided past their first enlistment, even for career linguists. However, the CTI community could allow the training pipeline to support the CTI Leadership and Development Roadmap (LaDR) by providing analysts the means to handle more than just translations.
How. RRL uses training technology to increase the number of training “reps and sets” a sailor can perform to build muscle memory before interacting with physical equipment or systems. Currently, CTIs can encounter modern training technology via the use of virtual reality goggles offered at some sites that inject scenarios such as defusing a bomb while translating the instructions from the foreign language, among others. As the Apprentice Cryptologic Language Analyst (ACLA) course undergoes modernization at Goodfellow Air Force Base (GAFB) in San Antonio, Texas, courses are being converted from static PowerPoint presentations to interactive software using Adobe Captivate to provide a gamification experience that compels the user to digitally interact with language to investigate various cryptologic missions. With the CTI training-path transformation, linguists would have opportunities to attend Navy Analysis and Reporting Course (NARC) at GAFB to receive the formal training they need to use their potential cultural intelligence values and provide insights to maintaining maritime superiority.
Where. At its conclusion, RRL delivers modernized training material to the actual point of need. For many ratings, this is done at the waterfront or pier side. For CTIs, this could occur during the PCS process between duty stations and would depend on the type of follow-on tours to which linguists are assigned.
At its core, RRL is about creating more proficient and technically capable sailors as they head to operational fleet units. This allows the CTI community to meet that demand through training delivered at strategic points in linguists’ careers that prepares them for increasingly large roles in the Navy, as well as provides additional incentives that may help meet retention goals. This investment could support linguists into becoming multidiscipline analysts capable of applying foreign language and cultural knowledge skills to reporting, signals analysis, and mission management.
During the first enlistment, linguists learn their trade. Once they complete their first enlistment, they move toward the Intermediate/Advanced portion of their second enlistment to prepare for their roles as subject-matter experts. During this stage and the third enlistment, linguists move beyond transcribing words to detailing the meanings and intents behind the language, making them crucial members of any integrated or joint-warfighting team. Language skills, combined with the target knowledge, enable linguists to provide more detailed and developed reports—more than just data sets. With this focused regional expertise, linguists would be prime for contributions to the Sailor 2025 initiative. This plan could align and transform CTIs from possessing a standalone skillset to a comprehensive and complementary one.
National Defense Strategy and the CTI Rating
The National Defense Strategy calls for strengthening the U.S. advantage in the strategic competition with China, Russia, and other persistent threats, such as North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations. Currently, the Navy has more than 400 Chinese linguists. Most are serving their third tour with no other technical training than their annual language training requirements. Meanwhile, China has become the pacing challenge for the Department of Defense. According to the National Defense Strategy, China is rapidly advancing their joint warfare abilities by integrating space, counterspace, electronic, and information warfare capabilities. Allowing CTIs to carry their first enlistment skills to a second enlistment during which they learn advanced and cross-training skills would provide time-sensitive opportunities for them to complete the same tasks as their counterparts while injecting foreign language and tactical knowledge.
As Russia works to increase its sphere of influence, more than 300 Navy linguists diligently scour the news to find ways to gain a strategic advantage. With no other formal analysis training, the CTIs are equipped with only one weapon: their language skills. Arming linguists with the relevant training needed to apply technical trades, analysis, reporting, and signals development, would better prepare the service for the integrated battlespace environment. This has worked for the Navy in the past and would certainly do so in the future.
More than Translators
In 2021, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro published his Strategic Guidance for the Navy and Marine Corps. In it, he characterizes the most pressing challenges facing the Department of the Navy as the “Four C’s”: China, Culture, Climate Change, and COVID. He writes, “the People’s Republic of China (PRC) represents the pacing challenge against which we must plan our warfighting strategies and investments” and of the four challenges to the United States, China is the most significant.
One of the pillars identified in the Strategic Guidance is to “Leverage Naval Education as a Critical Warfighting Enabler.” The Navy needs leaders with the highest intellectual and warfighting capabilities, and the institutions of naval education must work together to develop them. To that end, the multifaceted nature of CTIs would allow the Navy to use language and culture to further U.S. initiatives around the world.
From the early days of cryptography and codebreaking to the current state of cryptology, success on the battlefield was often a product of innovative thinking. Imagine a Chinese-language CTI trained as a warfare tactics instructor, capable of using their cultural and foreign language talents to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures to warfare commanders. Or imagine any information warfare rating capable of demodulating signals, examining the digital environment, or evaluating electromagnetic pulses, all while understanding and speaking Russian fluently.
This proposal is not intended to replace any of the information warfare ratings, but rather to invest in these sailors past their first enlistment and provide proof that the Navy is vested in retaining them as more than just interpreters. The key to the strategic advantage in today’s global fight is the same key that opens the door to both recruiting and retention. Show sailors they are capable of more than mastering the core skills of their ratings.