What is it about Cryptologists?

Civilian organizations take note.  You want to know what loyalty and culture can do to people in your organization?  How often have you ever run into someone from your organization, who knows exactly what you experienced, in a completely different environment?  It’s not unheard of, but it’s certainly not common.

This evening, amidst thousands in attendance at an international convention in Denver, I stumbled upon a fellow Navy veteran.  Not just a normal former sailor, but a veteran of the Naval Security Group, a Cryptologic Technician.  As a former CTI (Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive), a.k.a, a Russian linguist), I instantly saw the eyes light up in recognition of a deep bond formed in common experiences.  It’s not the first time it’s happened to me in the past decade, and certainly it won’t be the last.  But it got me thinking….

I took a count, and since graduating from college nearly 20 years ago, I’ve held positions in four major organizations.  And in none of those has there been the type of comraderie that I experienced in the military, the excitement and shared sense of sacrifice and purpose that I’ve felt in meeting other cryptologists.  Why is that?

Is it merely the commonality of military service?  I’m sure that’s part of it, but it only accounts for a portion of the bond experienced.  After all, before donning the Dixie Cup and Cracker Jack jumper, I spent five years as an Amry infantry scout/sniper.  I deployed during the first Gulf War in 1991.  I crawled through the swamps and jungles of Central America and conducted drug raids with some of the most dedicated and skilled soldiers anywhere.  Wonderful memories of shared sacrifice and challenge.  Yet, even that pales in comparison with the bond I feel when meeting other naval cryptologists.  So, it can’t be simply military service….

Perhaps it’s the nature of the service in the cryptologic community, a shrouded existence of top secret security clearances, classified missions and information, or the glamorous role of cryptologists in the Cold War.  Possibly it is in the quiet respect for the complexity and vitality of our roles that binds us to one another.  I’ve never been able to put my finger on it entirely….yet, it emerges whenever I happen upon another I-brancher, T-Brancher, O-Brancher, A-Brancher, or M-Brancher (those in NSG understand the nomenclature).

Regardless of the bonding source, there’s just something about the experience that seems to create instant connection.  I wish I could explain it fully.  If I could, I’m sure it would be worth millions in consulting fees and services to replicate it in other organizations.  For the time being, however, I will simply continue my internal exploration of this phenomenon, relishing in the feeling that inevitably sweeps over me in that moment of recognition when meeting another cryptologist.

Someday, perhaps, I’ll figure it all out….

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