USMC Cryptology – My Personal Beginning

   Reading time 10

USMC Cryptology - My Personal Beginning

*** WARNING *** Super long post ahead *** WARNING ***

TL:DR: I was a 2631 SIGINT/ELINT


A new feature in my blog will periodically point out key dates, people, and events in the world of cryptology to include SIGINT and ELINT. Why you ask, and I would have to answer that with, while I was in the Marine Corps (10 years and 3 months), I had a MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) of 2631, and in the 80s and 90s, 2631 was a SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) MOS.

Back in my day 2631 officially was a “Signal Intelligence Intercept Operator/ Analyst”, As today 2631 is an “Electronic Intelligence/Electronic Warfare Analyst”. The change was in the early 2000s as when I got out in 1998, I was actually at the school house as an instructor and the official MOS was still SIGINT, even though we were teaching ELINT (Electronic Intelligence).

In The Beginning
MARSPTBN-K - NTTC Corry Station, Pensacola, FloridaAfter boot camp, I went to Naval Technical Training Center (NTTC) Corry Station, in Pensacola, Florida. Today it is known as Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station (NASP Corry Station), Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC), and Corry Station (Google Maps). Back in 1988, as for was stationed at Pensacola Corry Station for my “A” school training. The Marine Corps unit was MARSPTBN Company K Marines.

“A” school is the primary job training where you learn your MOS; “B” school isn’t used much any longer; “C” school is where you learn more specialized/technical training, either in your primary MOS or advanced skill MOS.

Alright, back to Pensacola, where I learned Morse Code, and once I got my TS/SCI clearance (there is about a six-month process and investigation before you are granted your interim Top Secret SCI clearance), I started my SIGINT training. After school, my first duty station was at Homestead AFB, South Florida (this site is no longer active) as a SIGINT analyst. We didn’t actually work on the Air Force base, we worked some 10 miles into the Everglades at what was known as NSGA Homestead NAVSECGRU Site A (Google Maps). Here is a drone flyover that used to be the site where I worked.

I went to two “C” schools, the first being at Goodfellow AFB, Texas (Google Maps), and was very much 100% ELINT. I was part of a small group of hand-selected Marines, who went to this school as a testbed for the Marine Corps. This was the Air Force’s ELINT “C” school. My second “C” school was back in Pensacola, Florida and that was advanced SIGINT.

After school, my second duty station was MCAS Cherry Point, NC (Google Maps). And I was assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron-2 (VMAQ-2), which flew the EA-6B Prowler (both VMAQ-2 and the EA-6B airframe are retired and no longer used in the Marine Corps). Before the world got all PC, VMAQ-2’s logo included the Playboy bunny, then someone got all bent out of shape and did a ton of bitching until the logo was changed from “The Playboys” to the “Death Jesters” (whatever a Death Jester is). The Marine Corps had four VMAQ units (1-4), all located at Cherry Point. All four units were born from the original VMAQ-2.

While stationed with VMAQ-2, I worked a 100% ELINT mission with zero SIGINT, though my MOS was still 2631 – Signal Intelligence Intercept Operator/ Analyst. I had a collateral duty of Unix System Administrator as we didn’t have any type of billet in the Corps for anything IT-related. Collateral duties are a more permanent assignment of duties outside an individual’s normal range of responsibilities that provide a broadening experience. I worked the TERPES system, which was the AN/TSQ-90C & D – Tactical Electronic Reconnaissance Processing and Evaluation System (TERPES). I started on the AN/TSQ-90C system, which was being phased out and the new AN/TSQ-90D system was being stood up. I didn’t do about 98% of my work on the newer system.

TERPES was an intelligence processing system, that got its start in 1967. TERPES was capable of identifying and locating radar emitters from data recorded on tape by the EA-6B Prowler and is a segment of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). It is my understanding that TERPES is now decommissioned and no longer active with the AN/TSQ-90E being the last fielded units.

Between deployments, I attended the TERPES course in NAS Pt. Mugu California (Google Maps) (I had already been working TERPES for close to a year). As I had already been extremely familiar with the functionality of TERPES, I was selected to teach the course when our instructor (one of my very good friends) became ill and was hospitalized when he was able to come back, they decided that I was doing a great job and allowed me to finish teaching.

In each squadron, two Marines were selected to be taught Unix system administration (I had already self-taught myself much of it as I had been using the system and acting as a systems administrator for close to a year before I was officially taught Unix Sys Admin (SunOS and Solaris). This is where I started my career in IT (yeah I know, I technically started while in High School).

After my time with VMAQ-2, I was selected to be a TERPES instructor at the new school house (Navy-Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center – NMITC) at NAS Oceana Dam Neck Annex, Virginia Beach Virginia (Google Maps) part of Marine Detachment at Dam Neck Naval Annex. Along with a new schoolhouse, came all new course materials, which I drafted in the months prior to my first class. I taught 4 TERPES operator courses and 2 TERPES System Administrator courses while I was stationed there. I also had to teach a handful of classes to the basic course of Marine Corps Intel students (this was their “A” school), plus one TERPES course onsite at MCAS Cherry Point.

While at NMITC, I earned my Master Training Specialist (MTS) certificate, and as a senior instructor, I had to teach a certain number of hours and that included both “A” and “C” school students as well as parts of the Basic Intell Officer course, in order to keep my MTS active. I really loved teaching and I was really good at it, but as a family, we didn’t have any free time while stationed at VA Beach. I was working 12-hour days 6 days a week and the wife was often working full time including weekends every other week. Plus we now had a child and spending time with him is far more important to me than teaching or the Marine Corps.

This was my last duty station as I was offered far too many opportunities as a system administrator in the civilian market, so I moved on. I accepted a system admin job at MCIA (Marine Corps Intelligence Activity) located in Quantico, VA. I was there for just a little less than six years (3 years as a contractor and 3.5 years as a Government employee) before moving to another system admin job with the Navy.

Somewhere along the way after I left the Marine Corps, they changed the 2631 MOS from “Signal Intelligence Intercept Operator/Analyst” to “Non-Morse Electronic Intelligence ELINT Intercept Operator Analyst” to “Electronic Intelligence/Electronic Warfare Analyst“.

I miss the Corps, but I do get a fair amount of it where I work, you know the whole hurry up and wait game. And just doing stupid shit, just to do it.

The Military Yearbook Project has a decent writeup about the 2631 MOS

We had a motto of “In God, We Trust and All Others We Monitor”, before the world became all PC, it was “In God We Trust and All Others We Spy On”

In God We Trust and All Others We Monitor

Semper Scrotus - Always on the Ball

The sweatshirts that we instructor got at NMITC had the above logo on them, well before the world became all PC, Semper Scrotus (Always on the Ball), get it, Scrotus = Scrotum = on the Ball

We also had a really cool Mad Magazine Spy vs Spy logo, I will have to find it and post it.


***NOTE*** Everything is unclassified, the UNCLASSIFIED banners are just a job. If you ever worked in the biz, you know how silly they can get about those things. They must be Top and Bottom front and back of every document.

Average Jow Weekly Logo
Average Joe

Welcome to the Average Joe Weekly blog. This is basically my place on the web where I can help spread some of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. I served 10+ years in the Marine Corps on Active Duty, but that was some 25 years ago.

Avatar photo

By Average Joe

Welcome to the Average Joe Weekly blog. This is basically my place on the web where I can help spread some of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. I served 10+ years in the Marine Corps on Active Duty, but that was some 25 years ago.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.