Tuesday, April 11, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Preparing for cyber warfare

Twenty airmen graduated last month from the Air National Guard’s new cyber-skills validation course at Little Rock Air Force Base. The graduates represent the cutting edge of the Air Force’s concerted effort to train and develop future cyber missions.

The seven-week course consists of training in several critical mission areas, including digital forensics, industrial-control systems and vulnerability assessments – curriculum that the formal technical training course covers over seven months.

“Airmen come into the course with considerable cyber-maintenance experience, and are taught to use cyber in an operational way,” according to Lt. Col Erik Polz, commander of the Arkansas Air Guard’s 189th Operations Group. “They learn the importance of mission planning, briefing and debriefing and how to use cyber for defensive purposes, as well as how to prevent our enemies from using cyber offensively against us.”

Polz said the course was part of the war on terrorism and, in addition, graduates will support many other missions across the cyber domain.

You don’t have to look further than the Russian hackers who compromised last year’s presidential election or Russia’s hacking of the State Department in 2014 to realize urgent need for cyber defense and offense. Last week, hackers triggered Dallas’ massive tornado-warning system, setting off dozens of sirens that blared for 90 minutes.

The cyber skills validation course is designed to tap into the skills that many Reserve airmen already possess from their civilian careers and turn them into mission-capable troops that will be in high demand by state and national leaders.

According to Capt. Scott Anderson, 189th Operations Group Detachment 1 director of operations, “This course builds on the knowledge, skills and ability that students have previously learned and validates that they have what it takes to serve in the cyber warfare career field.” Anderson said.

He said the mission could grow as more airmen are taught the critical skills needed to combat hackers around the world. The course will be conducted quarterly but could be a regular feature at the base as facilities become available and the demand for highly skilled cyber operators increases. Someday, more active duty and Air Force Reserve students could take the course as their skills are needed.

Once again, Little Rock Air Fore Base is on the cutting edge in the global effort to defend America.