Health & Safety

June 28, 2012

Information on information technologies

Lance Cpl. Bill Waterstreet
Desert Warrior Staff

While most Marines are experts within their own job fields, we are often quite ignorant of the work others do around us, even though it is present in our everyday lives. A clear example of this is the work Station Information Technologies does to make life possible here on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

IT maintains the data communications for the air station. They are responsible for maintaining computer networks, share-drive databases, providing computer, network and server backup, updating and upgrading systems and providing computer troubleshooting when something goes wrong. IT is the advocate for higher headquarters and contractors like NMCI for all personnel on station.

“Everybody here depends so much on computers,” said Jack Neely, the station IT director and a native of San Diego. “We strive to keep everything up to date, to keep everything protected and to keep everybody trained. We do our best to take care of everyone.”

The Cyber Security department, which works with IT, is responsible for the confidentiality, availability and integrity of data being transmitted on station. It is their job to keep data secure, and they take it seriously.

“We periodically go around the installation and inspect for any personal identifiable information in office spaces or the garbage,” said Jason Holloway, the Cyber Security manager and a native of Merit, Texas. “We do go through the dumpsters. When you throw something away, it goes to a public dump. Just like any other dump in any other city, there are people scavenging there. If they find anything, they can exploit it.”

Cyber threats have become the fastest growing dangers in America. Losing PII, hacking and phishing are real threats faced by both the common man and the government.

“We are trying to get people aware of PII,” added Holloway. “That is our biggest problem right now. Everyone needs to protect their information. Not everyone on the air station needs to know your home address.”

The most difficult challenge for IT is meeting everyone’s needs with the limited budget and personnel available. The department currently employs nine civilians, five Marines and four sailors. That said, IT works constantly to trim the amount of money spent on the information needs of the air station.

“We try to make sure we are judicious users of all the limited taxpayer dollars we get,” stated Neely. “That’s something we strive hard for throughout S-6. We’ve cut more than $250,000 out of yearly IT expenses over the last four years.”

The IT department gets an average of 20 requests for help daily, but that number can reach as high as 90.

Recently, IT has reached out to the commands to provide more immediate assistance to personnel on station. Each command has an IT point of contact who knows how to take care of minor technical issues and funnels major ones to the correct people.

“There is such a tremendous reliance on data communications in the manner we have it now with computers and smartphones,” added Neely. “The idea of the old message center is out. Now, the reliance upon email and the instant transmission and attainability of data is extremely essential. If we let ourselves go, the other guy would have an advantage over us. We can’t let that happen.”

One of the common misconceptions about the computers on station is that the computers are old and slow. This is due to the security measures installed on the computer, not the computer itself.

“The security on the computers slows them down quite a bit, but it also protects them,” said Neely. “It’s a trade off. Ratchet it down too much, and it’s too slow. Loosen it up too much and we get viruses or hacked. We meet in the middle so we are safe and it works.”

The new construction should provide a slight increase in internet speed throughout the air station, but it will affect sections which use massive amounts of bandwidth more drastically.

There are also many simple things we can all do to assure the information systems on the air station continue to run properly. Turning off the computer and monitor after work, keeping a record of hardware and programs installed on the computers, removing CAC cards when leaving a desk and going to the department IT representative first in case of a problem are simple actions we can all take to improve the air station’s communications.

“Don’t click on links from people you don’t know,” said Robert Butler, a Cyber Security officer, and a native of Perry, Ill. “Don’t put unknown media (CDs or thumb drives) in your computer. When you get a phone call and people start asking questions, wonder why.”

“If you’re handling PII, there’s a way to do it,” added Holloway. “If you don’t know, give us a call. If you have questions, we can come down.”

If you think these tasks aren’t important enough to devote a brief moment of your life to them, listen to the wise words of Jack Neely.

“Why is IT so important? Imagine your shop without computers.”

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