One of the cooler things about being in the CIA is the opportunity for extra training available to staff employees. The agency calls it CIA University. Courses offered include lock-picking, money laundering, offensive double-agent operations, live-tissue labs, chemical-weapons manufacturing…you get the point. Just about anything a person can conceive, the agency offers instruction on it.
As a new employee in the CIA, it’s required to complete specific training courses that correlate to your main job function. After completing your mandatory training, you can choose from over 300 courses on the agency’s internal computer system. All you have to do is click on the app, find the course, and choose from pre-selected dates when the training is offered.
If you’re not a gunslinger, don’t fret. The university trains CIA support officers, such as those in finance, human resources, or logistics. Even a supply clerk has the opportunity to attend BMW’s driving school in Europe or a Zodiac boat course in the southeastern United States.
One of the more difficult training courses I attended was called Target and Terrain Familiarization. It’s basically a high-end land-navigation course that takes place throughout northern Virginia. I had a fundamental understanding of land navigation from the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry, but comparatively, I was now in the big leagues. The course began by teaching basic map reading and plotting, navigating with a compass, factors of declination, true versus magnetic north, and then advanced to finding points in the hills and urban areas of Virginia by shooting azimuths from cell-phone towers. Trust me when I say this is easier said than done.
One of my favorite parts of the training was learning how to make a small book from a large fold-out map. It involves lots of cutting, glue, and tape. The trick played a significant role when navigating on my future deployments. A map the size of a Humvee windshield minimized down to the size of an iPad is invaluable.