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August 10, 2009—The Air Force has graduated its last class of airmen from its Voice Network Systems course at Sheppard AFB, Tex., from which the airmen worked in such areas as telephone key systems, circuitry, and computer systems. That field and 15 others in communications and information are merging into USAF's new cyber operations arena expected to comprise 13 cyberspace career fields.

Initial plans to create a cyber major command morphed into setting up a cyber numbered air force (which it now expects to place at Lackland AFB, Tex. to be led by Maj. Gen. Richard Webber), but the service early on recognized the need to establish and sustain a cadre of cyber operators.

Part of the work on its cyber roadmap, which USAF began in earnest last fall, includes establishing the new career fields and training paths.

However, officials acknowledged earlier this year that, despite a weak economy, it could face recruiting and retention challenges as it reshapes the force and addresses highly stressed and new fields, particularly like cyber operations, which calls for particular skill capabilities.

Stephen SanMiguel, an instructor supervisor at Sheppard, said, "We've taught basically the Air Force Telephone Company for the last 50 years here at Sheppard." He added, "The increasing reliance on cyberspace capabilities demanded a fresh approach to command, control, defensive and offensive skills."

At least for now, Sheppard will not be part of the new cyber training, since the Air Force has decided to let Keesler AFB, Miss., host such training by transforming its current communications and information courses into new cyberwarfare training.

(Includes Sheppard report by A1C Valerie Hosea)