VIDEO: Pensacola’s Corry Station expanding classrooms and barracks
Gregg Pachkowski, Pensacola News Journal
Sailors in fatigues marched one direction Thursday afternoon at Naval Air Station Pensacola’s Corry Station as sailors in workout clothes jogged around them.
The first group was headed to the base cafeteria for a mid-day lunch break, while the second group was just starting its daily schedule with physical training before moving into classrooms for hours of cybersecurity training.
Things are so busy these days at Corry Station, the Navy’s Center for Information Warfare Training, that students enter the classrooms in three shifts stretching from early morning to midnight. There aren’t enough seats in the existing classrooms for all of the students.
And the extreme demand by the Department of Defense for cybersecurity specialists means the base will get a lot busier in the coming years, said Capt. Nicholas Andrews, the Center for Information Warfare Training commander.
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“I say a lot around here that we are building the bike while we are riding it,” Andrews said as he explained all of the work taking place at the base to keep up with the demand from the military for trained cybersecurity specialists.
By 2021, Corry Station expects to double its average student population from about 1,500 to 3,000. Most students spend about six months at the Pensacola base before moving on to additional training or deployments.
Along with the calls of cadence and sounds of marching, the buzz of construction is constant at the base. A new, 215-student, $18 million barracks recently opened and a nearly identical barracks is going up next door.
In March, the base will open approximately 37,000 square feet of temporary classroom space in modular buildings. The plan is to bring 44 temporary buildings onto a large lot where groundwork is underway.
The military’s long-term plan for Corry Station is to replace the temporary classrooms with about 200,000 square feet of new, permanent classroom space.
Capt. Mike Lebu is director of the base’s Cyber Mission Force program. Lebu said the base’s training supports national security that helps to keep critical infrastructure such as power grids and banking systems safe.
Students who qualify to train at Corry are smart and their talents are often in great demand by private sector companies, he said.
“We do face a war for talent both in recruitment and retention,” he said.
Charles Sauter, director of training for Corry Station, said it isn’t a stretch to say the base has Silicon Valley-type talent.
But the barracks and the chow hall at Corry Station are a far cry from the catered lunches and fantastic decors offered by Fortune 500 companies, the men joked.
“This is about a higher calling and wanting to serve your country,” said Andrews, who added that the military’s missions can be more interesting than commercial ventures.
Andrews, who took over as Center for Information Warfare Training commander in late May, said he knew he was taking the helm at an unusually busy time. He credited his team with making it possible to increase training levels so quickly.
“It has taken a lot of work to get to the place where we are now,” he said.
Melissa Nelson Gabriel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-426-1431
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