Friday, April 07, 2017

TOP STORY >> Airmen finish first class on cyber warfare

Leader senior staff writer

“I want to be able to take a cyber warrior out of any technology company, put them into our workforce and validate the skills they already have,” Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice told the first 20 graduates of the Air National Guard’s seven-week Cyber Skills Validation Course at Little Rock Air Force Base on March 29.

“I also want to be able to take young airmen just joining the Guard and make them cyber warriors from day one. Thanks for stepping up to the challenge,” he said.

The graduates represent the cutting edge of the Air Force’s concerted effort to train and develop the need to fulfill future cyber missions, he said.

“This is an historic day at Little Rock Air Force Base,” Sen. John Boozman R-Ark.) said in a press release. “These graduates are essential to combatting our nation’s growing cyber threat,” Boozman said.

You don’t have to look further than Russian election hacks or the 2014 hacking of the State Department to realize the urgency for cyber defense and offense.

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

“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,” he said.

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

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, 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.

“We are very proud of the students and we have the utmost confidence in our graduates being successful,” he said.

Initially, the course would be conducted quarterly and that based on available facilities at the base and the demand for highly skilled cyber operators in the Guard, it is likely the mission could grow, he said.

While currently airmen from many allied nations are trained to fly and maintain C-130s at the base, there are no plans to cyber train allies.

“We hope to include active duty USAF and Air Force Reserve students in the future,” Polz said.