NEWS | Feb. 1, 2021

NSA 2020 Learning Excellence Award for Learning Organization of the Year

Utah Army National Guard

The Utah National Guard is home to two units who are renowned for their "excellence in language." The service members of the 151st Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group and the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade (Linguist) routinely surpass the standard by achieving exceptional marks on the Defense Language Proficiency Test. The talents and language skills of Utah National Guard Airmen and Soldiers are regularly sought out and leveraged against a broad range of efforts to include the translation of public health information regarding COVID-19 for the state of Utah, as well as national-level foreign language requirements. The culture of excellence in the Utah National Guard is not limited to foreign language skills. Recently, sites across Utah were recognized by the National Security Agency as the Learning Organization of the Year for "Learning Excellence."

One might ask, what it takes to be an excellent learning organization. A learning organization distinguishes itself through alignment of its strategic goals and daily business practices. It places an emphasis on learning within the organization to improve individual and organizational performance.
A learning organization fosters knowledge sharing at all levels and creates an environment that values professional development. A learning organization promotes a growth-mindset culture that believes time spent away from work in pursuit of mission-related training is a worthwhile investment­­--for the employee, the organization, and NSA/CSS.

Utah National Guard Airmen and Soldiers worked with the Utah Education and Training Program manager to coordinate, train and participate in training for civilian and military personnel dispersed throughout multiple sites across Utah (separated by 70 miles from north to south), to orchestrate the delivery of 152 training courses­­--both classified and unclassified--across a variety of training platforms. More than 30 Utah National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are certified as adjunct faculty cadre.

Because of the large footprint of highly qualified adjunct instructor cadre supplied by Utah National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, cryptologic training in Utah achieved a 40 percent increase in yearly training output as compared to the year before. This training is critical to build upon skills gained after initial entry training at the service schools. It also complements professional military education to enhance the skillset of the service members and ensures they are current with tools, technology and tradecraft of the ever-changing world. Besides building unit readiness, these training opportunities also contribute to increased retention as Airmen and Soldiers are able to participate in unique professionalization opportunities not available elsewhere.

The past year, more than 4,200 training hours were delivered, satisfying documented mission critical/essential requirements. Because of these coordinated efforts and the commitment to professionalization, the Utah training team was selected for the National Security Agency's 2020 Learning Excellence Award for Learning Organization of the Year. This award is to "pay tribute to individuals, teams, and organizations who advanced the cryptologic mission by honing the skills of our workforce in calendar year 2019." Obtaining this coveted prize entailed the following significant efforts:

  • Developing creative solutions to meet the unique training needs of a multilingual workforce, ensuring polyglots had access to upskilling opportunities in low-density languages
  • Increasing the adjunct faculty pool by 30 percent and growing the virtual training footprint
  • Collaborating with the senior leadership of the Utah Army/Air National Guard units to advocate for professional development and leadership training for military and civilian personnel

While 2020 has thrown a few curve balls, the Utah National Guard and civilian training cadre proved adaptive to new challenges, and they look forward to meeting the civilian and military training needs of the future.