January 2, 2018
CRANE, Ind. – It was 2003, and a young Marine named Rob Templeman had recently been deployed to Kuwait as a communications operator.
Under the orders of General James Mattis (now the Secretary of Defense), Templeman’s First Marine Division moved to Iraq, and one night in Baghdad, they began the offensive movement to Tikrit in blackout conditions to minimize contact with adversaries. Suddenly, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) Templeman and his unit were traveling in collided with a trailer at a high rate of speed.
“Our convoy was trapped and we were vulnerable,” Templeman said.
A mechanic in the convoy battle shorted the HMMWV’s damaged cooling system and got it running again in a matter of minutes by stripping off broken parts. That same vehicle would last for the rest of Templeman’s time in Iraq, carrying the Marines for hundreds of miles under many patrols and movements.
“Our lives depended on that vehicle and it performed better than anyone could have expected,” Templeman said.
Fourteen years later, Templeman is the Chief Engineer for Cybersecurity at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), where he now dedicates his time to making sure the next generation of warfighters comes home safe just like he did. It is because Templeman experienced dangerous situations in which his life depended on his equipment working properly that he is so passionate about the work he does at NSWC Crane.
“I survived some harrowing situations because my gear worked when I absolutely needed it to,” Templeman said. “I am passionate about doing what we can at Crane to deliver products that can be trusted by our warfighters even while our motivated and well-resourced adversaries seek to compromise that trust.”
Following His Little Brother’s Lead
Templeman never really considered enlisting in the Marines when he was growing up, and he likely never would have had it not been for his younger brother, Jon. Jon – three years Rob’s junior – wanted to be a Marine for much of his life, and after Rob traveled to San Diego to attend Jon’s graduation from boot camp in 1999, he decided to enlist as well.
“After seeing how drastically it changed him as a young man, I made the decision on the spot at his graduation, and I signed up for boot camp the following week,” Templeman said. “I saw it just completely transform my 18-year-old little brother into a man. I saw a complete mental and physical transformation in him that I desired for my own life.”
Enlisting in the Marines changed Rob, too, so much so that he has devoted his life to serving his country and protecting its warfighters.
“My years in the Marine Corps were the hardest years of my life, but some of the best,” Templeman said. “What was most striking for me in the Marine Corps was achieving things that I didn’t think were possible.”
From the Front Lines to NSWC Crane
After serving in the Marines, Templeman earned an Electrical Engineering degree from Purdue University, and had his heart set on working in consumer electronics. When NSWC Crane reached out to Templeman and suggested he take a visit to Crane, he decided to make the trip, but didn’t necessarily intend to work there.
“As is the case for many, my first visit to Crane blew me away,” Templeman said. “I was immediately drawn to Crane’s mission and the family-like environment that exists here.”
Templeman was sold. Soon thereafter, he accepted a job as an Electrical Engineer with NSWC Crane. In 2010, Templeman was accepted into Crane’s PhD Fellowship Program, which is designed to foster greater participation in doctoral level education that directly supports NSWC Crane’s strategic focus areas, as well as to develop employees into nationally-recognized leaders in their fields.
Templeman earned his PhD in Computer Science from Indiana University, where he fell in love with the cyber discipline, and that has been his area of expertise ever since.
“Crane’s PhD Fellowship Program is unique and amazing,” Templeman said. “Most Crane PhD Fellows begin their programs having had many years of technical experience in the Navy, which provides a unique perspective and a focus that isn’t common among most other grad students. The program allows us to bridge theoretical work with grounded applications needed by our Navy, and also provides the opportunity to develop deep relationships with academia.”
A National Leader in Cybersecurity
As the Chief Engineer for Cybersecurity, Templeman spends the majority of his time managing a research portfolio and working alongside people in both government and academia. He’s a big reason why NSWC Crane has become a national leader in cybersecurity.
In 2012, one of Templeman’s research papers received global media attention, and was recognized by the MIT Technology Review as a Top Innovation for 2012. Two years later, Templeman was invited to the Heidelberg Laureate Forum to be recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 young computer science researchers.
In 2016, Templeman was appointed to the Indiana Executive Council on Cybersecurity by then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence (currently the Vice President).
Templeman credits much of his personal success to the highly-capable team of cybersecurity experts he works with on a daily basis at Crane.
“I love working alongside some of the smartest and most driven people I have ever met. We challenge each other pretty hard,” Templeman said. “Crane is doing groundbreaking work, which is only possible because of the environment of innovation our leadership has established.”
Templeman remains focused on continuing to grow a qualified cyber workforce at NSWC Crane, something he admits is quite a challenge. A big part of that challenge lies in finding ways to convey highly technical topics to senior leaders. Templeman says the key is talking about cybersecurity in narrative form, an approach that he credits to Nathaniel Fick, CEO of the cybersecurity company ‘EndGame’.
While at Indiana University, Templeman provided input for the Information Security Practice Principles (ISPPs), a product of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research where he is a Senior Fellow. The ISPPs guide action to secure systems and enable an effective cybersecurity mental model for communicating with both highly technical groups of practitioners as well as non-technical senior leaders.
“Part of the challenge is simply that cybersecurity work is really hard,” Templeman said. “That said, smart people like difficult challenges, and we have no shortage of smart people at Crane.
“Our mandate is for Crane to supply systems that accomplish the Navy’s missions in contested cyber environments, and that can only be accomplished by growing the right technical capabilities and continuing to add to our great team.”
Protecting the Next Generation of Warfighters
Templeman remains driven to do everything he can to protect the nation’s young warfighters. It’s what is on his mind every morning when he drives in to work, and it’s what motivates him to take on some of the toughest cyber challenges.
In 2003, Templeman experienced first-hand how important it is for warfighters to have gear they can trust. Now, he’s dedicating his career to ensure that trust remains strong – today, and in the future.
“It was absolutely essential to have gear that we could trust,” Templeman said. “Combat is hard even in the best of circumstances. I am obsessed with the thoughts of Crane gear in the hands of our warfighters. They depend on us. One step skipped in a test procedure could mean failure in the hands of a warfighter when their lives are on the line.”
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). NSWC Crane is responsible for multi-domain, multi-spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability of today’s warfighter.