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News | Aug. 16, 2018

Fleet Cyber Command Officer is First JAG to Earn IWO Pin

By U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. TENTH Fleet Public Affairs

Cmdr. Danielle Higson, deputy staff judge advocate assigned to U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/ U.S. 10th Fleet (FCC/C10F), became the first member of the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps in the Navy to earn the Information Warfare Officer pin during a ceremony held at FCC Headquarters Aug. 10. 

The Information Warfare Officer (IWO) qualification is a mandatory program for officers designated as members of the Information Warfare Community (IWC). The IW officer community is made up of information professional officers, cryptologic warfare officers, intelligence officers, oceanography officers, cyber warfare engineers and the space cadre. 

According to COMNAVIFORINST 1412.1, the Navy instruction that governs the IWO program, “Non-IWC officers can qualify for the IWO designation if they demonstrate sufficient Information Warfare-related experience.” Officers can apply for eligibility if they are currently in a billet that requires they perform IW functions as their primary duty, pre-register with Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) N13, and provide documentation showing a minimum of 18 months of IW experience in their primary duties. 

Higson, a native of Ringoes, New Jersey, was granted approval to pursue the qualification from NAVIFOR on 1 May 2017. According to NAVIFOR she is the first JAG officer to earn the qualification. 

“I wanted to purse the qualification to show my colleagues here at FCC that, even as a JAG officer, I respect and value the mission of the IWC,” said Higson. “I knew that embarking on this qualification process would be the best way to learn more about all of the aspects of information warfare. I also wanted to set an example for all of our junior judge advocates at our subordinate units. I really think this is something that they should earn in order to make them greater assets to the IWC when they become more senior judge advocates.”

In order to earn the IWO qualification, an officer must complete the list of tasks and examinations outlined in the IWO Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) and then pass an IWO oral board.

“I felt very proud of my accomplishment when I passed my board and earned my pin,” said Higson. “This was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my 18 years in the Navy and one of the most fulfilling.”

Higson completed her PQS in about 6 months and passed her oral board on Aug. 9. The qualification process tested her knowledge of all concepts relating to information warfare including offensive and defensive cyber operations, intelligence gathering, cryptology, information operations, electronic warfare, and space operations.

“I’m grateful to everyone here at the command who took the time to provide training and encouraged me along the way,” she said. “I know that earning this qualification has made me a better officer, and a better leader and that none of it would have been possible without the help of the FCC team.”

Higson said the most challenging aspect of the qualification process was understanding the breadth of information and how all of the components of the IWC compliment and depend on each other. She also said this was the most she had studied since she prepared for the bar exam. 

“I’m extremely proud of Danielle for pursing this qualification,” said Capt. Robert Passerello, fleet judge advocate at FCC/C10F. “Witnessing her persistence and determination to get this qualification has been truly inspiring.”

“Allowing JAG officers to go through the IW PQS provides our community the opportunity to enhance not only their knowledge of the IW community, but also ensuring we are providing tailored legal advice that is based on sound understanding of IW functions and capabilities,” he said. 

Higson’s advice for any other non-IWC officers who want to pursue the qualification is to rely on the subject matter experts, to ask a lot of questions and not to give up. 

Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 16,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 26 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. FCC serves as the Navy component command to U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command, and the Navy's Service Cryptologic Component commander under the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. C10F, the operational arm of FCC, executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders. In this role, C10F provides support of Navy and joint missions in cyber/networks, cryptologic/signals intelligence and space.

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