Cadets and adult members devoted two weeks recently to exploring and working to master some of the latest developments in the ever-shifting realm of cyberspace, as presented at the National Cyber Academy in Hampton, Virginia.
The academy, led by Senior Master Sgt. Jared Mast of Virginia Wing Group 2 for the third year, aims to provide cyber-focused career exploration and training courses with the goal of fostering cybersecurity and information technology knowledge, increasing awareness, and generating greater interest in the field.
This year the Hampton campus offered two courses – the Cyberspace Networking Course and the Cyberspace Operations Fundamentals Course. During the networking course cadets receive daily advanced training in the classroom that helps prepare them for future endeavors and cyber certification attempts.
Completion of either course qualifies participants for the Cadet Special Activities ribbon.
Second Lieutenant Leonard Nichols Jr. of the North Carolina Wing’s Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron, a multiple-certified CompTIA instructor, taught the networking course. Participants underwent an intensive week of training based on the CompTIA Network+ and Cisco Certified Network Associate courses. In just five days, they covered the same content that adult students typically cover over several weeks of classroom instruction.
The networking class provided practical knowledge normally tested by the CompTIA Network+ certification exam, and participants gained hands-on experience using Cisco equipment. The course culminated in a graduation exercise where students worked in teams to provide network access to a new branch office with an existing company while troubleshooting issues with the existing branches.
The fundamentals course, taught by Capt. Joshua Philipps of the Air National Guard and Mast, provided an experience similar to that encountered during U.S. Air Force mission qualification training on the CY-39 Interceptor Platform.
In addition to learning about how cyber protection teams hunt, clear, enable hardening, and assess systems, participants gained practical experience with network and host analyst tools.
For the concluding graduation exercise, participants connected to the Deployable Interceptor Platform to perform defensive cyberspace operations on a training network facing a simulated attack.
Cadets and staff had the opportunity to visit such historic sites as the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility and hangar at NASA Langley Research Center as well as the facilities of the 633rd Communications Squadron, the 185th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, and the 27th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
Distinguished graduates, both from the Virginia Wing, were recognized for their outstanding performance in each course:
- Cyberspace Operations Fundamentals Course – Cadet Capt. Kyrieanne Pardue of the Winchester Composite Squadron
- Cyberspace Networking Course – Cadet 2nd Lt. Aden Doniger of the Virginia Wing’s Southside Composite Squadron
Other staff members were Capts. Devin Pedone, assistant activity director, and Pierce Reid III, fundamentals course class leader, along with 1st Lt. Derek Broadhead, health services officer and public affairs officer.
Pedone is commander of the Connecticut Wing’s 399th Composite Squadron, and Reid heads the Mississippi Wing’s Berta A. Edge Composite Squadron. Broadhead belongs to the North Carolina Wing’s Asheville Composite Squadron.
The educational experience wasn’t limited to the participating cadets, Reid said working with the cadets helped sharpen his own cybersecurity skills – crucial in an ever-changing technological field.
All staff members actively participated in the classes, providing event direction and personal guidance while also gaining new skills through exposure to the challenging classroom environments.
National Cyber Academies are also held in Colorado, Michigan, and Texas.