The South East RFCA Reserve Link magazine’s latest edition includes feature articles like this one, about Squadron Leader Rick Seager MBE, a recruiter for the Cyber Reserves. View the full magazine here.
Initially trained as one of the RAF’s last Morse Code Operators, or ‘Telegraphists’. Rick is now a Reservist recruiter supporting the Cyber Reserve Force (CRF), his latest career move spanning decades of regular and reservist service and generations of technology too.
Rick went from being a “Mod” in his younger years; idolising bands like ‘The Who and The Jam, to working for the MOD in 1980. His career has taken him across the globe and from service as a regular to that of a reservist.
After becoming a reservist in 2014, Rick served at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham and as an Officer Commanding training with 501 (City of Gloucester) Squadron before joining Joint Forces Command in 2017 (prior to it becoming UK Strategic Command). He now serves as SO2 Selection and Training in the Joint Cyber Reserve Force. During his service, Rick has been awarded an MBE and several accolades, most recently receiving the Commander UKStratCom 4 Star Commendation from General Sir Patrick Sanders.
Rick explains below the important difference in mind set between inducting personnel into the Cyber Reserves and training people in the Regular Forces. He also shares some reflections on the incredible contribution that Cyber Reservists make.
How the Cyber Reserves attract the best talent
The Cyber Reserves is made up of an eclectic group of people who Defence doesn’t currently train internally; Rick’s role is to select people with the vital cyber skills that Defence requires then induct them into the military.
There is a high bar set in Cyber Reserve Force selection. Rick said “We get around 8 to 10 people per month coming to a technical board and usually only 40-60% are selected. Our pool of talent includes academics, high-end cyber skilled personnel from industry and personnel from military industrial partners, all of whom have a strong desire to serve their country. People are given the opportunity to join any single Service should a post be available; they will often opt for a single Service with a family connection, so they can feel a personal link to the traditions of that service.” Personnel leaving the regular and reserve service will also be accepted, dependent on their skill level.
Pictured are soldiers deployed on Exercise Army Cyber Spartan, an offensive and defensive cyber exercise on a live network with the aim to attract the widest talent. Ex. ACS5 welcomes participation from across the Field Army, with units invited to form Blue teams consisting of 10 people each with up to 30 Blue Teams in total. The Blue Teams are the exercising troops and are defending and administering representatives systems and services in a military context, whilst ensuring continued access to user. The Red Team are the opposing force and their role is to attempt a series of exploits to gain access to information or disrupt normal service operation. These are the actions that the Blue Team are defending against. The Green team pictured are creating traffic for the network in order to enable the Blue and Red teams taking part in the exercise to complete their tasks.
In most regular military careers, the goal is to consistently “broaden” personal experience and skills but in the Cyber Reserves, the people recruited are experts from the start, which changes everything about how their careers work.
When defining the conditions for the Cyber Reserves, Air Chief Marshal, Sir Stuart Peach, former Chief Defence Staff commented that “it was a team that should be about talent not rank.” In addition, the Cyber Reserves are able to recruit personnel with high-end cyber skills that would otherwise not pass the typical medical or fitness standards for military service.
Talking about the induction of the Cyber Reserves Rick said: “One of the things which is unusual about the people I select is that they don’t have any Phase 1 (Military Skills) or Phase 2 (Trade, Branch, Professions) training. They have a bespoke route into Defence which includes military familiarisation time and a Defence cyber context module at the Defence Cyber Academy. Then we drop them in front of a keyboard, as that’s where they have a real impact. The Cyber Reservists I select have very specialist experience, so we don’t select for training, we induct people with the skills Defence needs, to accomplish our Mission Statement of ‘Enhancing Defence Cyber Capability’.
Because of this difference Rick gives new recruits a “handrail” including thirteen days of “basic military survival skills”. This includes things like saluting, paying appropriate compliments, diversity and inclusion training, laws of armed conflict training and an understanding of military ranks. Following this, the new recruits quickly move on to “serving King and country.”
Although their induction is brief, there can be no doubt that the Cyber Reserve Force make a real impact; the Cyber Reserves have been involved in every major cyber exercise and supported numerous cyber operations since their formation in 2013.
Rick said: “It would take us a long time to train people like this so the Cyber Reserves give us the people we need now. People with deep skills and expertise that will help us succeed in the grey zone, below the threshold of traditional Warfighting and contribute directly to Defence Task Number 1. “ If you are interested in finding out more about Cyber Reserve Force, or would like to join, search cyber reserve force online.
RFCA members help Defence connect with businesses and communities in our respective regions, by nurturing longstanding working relationships in the community that helps the Armed Forces maintain and grow the positive recruiting environment in the regions. This in turn helps cyber experts find support from their employer if they want to pursue a Cyber Reserves career, or any Reserves or Cadet Force volunteer role. There are roughly 2,500 reservists (Royal Navy Reserve, RAF Reserves and British Army Reserve) in East Anglia and 2,000 adult volunteers in the Cadet Forces.