Scott Air Force Base News

Base communication initiatives help grow both Air Force, regional cyber capabilities

During the past few years, the 375th Communication Group has taken great strides with their efforts to inspire an interest in cyber and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) careers, improve cybersecurity awareness, and advance their current workforce’s cyber skills. Here, 375th CG members work with students from Smithton Elementary School.
During the past few years, the 375th Communication Group has taken great strides with their efforts to inspire an interest in cyber and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) careers, improve cybersecurity awareness, and advance their current workforce’s cyber skills. Here, 375th CG members work with students from Smithton Elementary School.

With several cyber units located on base, Scott supports a large community that thrives in communications and information technology.

To support this community, along with helping to grow the future cyber workforce, a team of experts in the 375th Communications Group have developed numerous cyber outreach initiatives that help the Air Force fly, fight and win ... in cyberspace.

Our local cyber community is committed to finding solutions to the challenges we are facing. We need to attack this from every angle—attract future talent, increase cybersecurity awareness, and grow cyber skills in today’s workforce to help close this gap.

Donna Davis, 375th CG deputy director

“The Communications Group operates and defends a cyberspace hub supporting systems and infrastructure for the Department of Defense at over 200 sites around the world,” explained Col. Marc Packler, 375th CG commander. “We play a large role in building and maintaining the base’s information technology while simultaneously striving to develop a highly skilled global cyber workforce.”

During the past few years, the 375th CG has taken great strides with their efforts to inspire an interest in cyber and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) careers, improve cybersecurity awareness, and advance their current workforce’s cyber skills.

Donna Davis, 375th CG deputy director, said that a recent Global Information Security Workforce Study reported an expected 1.8 million cyber workforce shortages by 2022. Adding to that is that fact that about half of Scott’s civilian cyber professionals are eligible to retire during the same timeframe.

“Our local cyber community is committed to finding solutions to the challenges we are facing,” said Davis. “We need to attack this from every angle—attract future talent, increase cybersecurity awareness, and grow cyber skills in today’s workforce to help close this gap.”

To do that, the 375th CG has collaborated with cyber partners on base and local organizations in the community to increase the available cybersecurity resources in the region. Key partners in this effort are the Defense Information Systems Agency-Global Operations, Air Force Space Command’s Cyberspace Support Squadron, the Midwest Cyber Center, the Air Force Association, and education institutions of all academic levels.

For several years, the 375th CG has hosted successful STEAM events on base for hundreds of junior high school students, with the most recent held March 22. The STEAM Days allow students to participate in demonstrations and hands-on activities.

The 375th CG is also working with the Midwest Cyber Center to increase cyber skills in today’s workforce by creating a fast track cyber career path for nontraditional career seekers. This registered apprenticeship is a unique, flexible training system that combines job related technical instruction with structured on-the-job learning experiences and online coursework.

“Enforcing some of the critical STEAM principles will hopefully get young people encouraged to go into or explore those opportunities related to those fields of study,” said Capt. Daniel Esposito, 375th Communications Support Squadron director of operations and STEAM Day chair.

Comm group Airmen also serve as technical mentors to local CyberPatriot teams. CyberPatriot is the Air Force Association’s national cyber education program that leads middle and high school students to compete in cyber defense competitions. The program equips youth with the skills necessary to be tomorrow’s cyber professional.

Davis said, “In 2016 there were only five CyberPatriot teams competing in our region. We increased the number to 31 teams in 2017. This year, we have grown to 59 CyberPatriot teams through our various outreach and cyber events.” She added that the goal for 2019 is to build 100 CyberPatriot teams.

Last summer, the Airmen supported CyberPatriot camps at Smithton and East St. Louis. This year, technical mentors will be at CyberPatriot summer camps at Ranken, St. Charles College, and McKendree University.

Reducing cyber risks by increasing cybersecurity awareness is another initiative of the 375th CG.

They organize events annually in celebration of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which is observed in October.

The NCSAM was created under leadership from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance as a collaborative effort between government and industry to guarantee every American has the resources they need to stay safe and secure online. Since its inception in 2004, NCSAM has grown exponentially.

“Scott AFB’s NCSAM events and activities have the biggest impact in this area, and we’ve been fortunate to be able to collaborate with our mission partners at Scott for this effort as well,” said Davis.

“For instance, Lt. Col. Eric Trias, the CYSS commander, and his team oversaw last year’s program planning so we could focus on our wing’s Unit Effectiveness Inspection. CYSS even created a NCSAM ‘out-of-box script’ to ease NCSAM planning for future years.

The Communications Group operates and defends a cyberspace hub supporting systems and infrastructure for the Department of Defense at over 200 sites around the world. We play a large role in building and maintaining the base’s information technology while simultaneously striving to develop a highly skilled global cyber workforce.

Col. Marc Packler, 375th CG commander

“It just reinforces that we have awesome cyber partners at Scott AFB.”

In addition, last year the 375th CG supported speaking or mentoring events that reached over 7,600 people. Approximately 5,600 of the participants were students.

Some of those events included hosting the Annual Maybin Relay Run, held to honor Tech. Sgt. Michael Maybin, a former cyber-Airman from the 375th CSPTS who passed away unexpectedly in 2012.

Other events include a Capture the Flag and a Hacktober competition, which gives participants hands-on experience with cyber and STEAM related tasks. Cyber awareness events included booths at the Exchange, and visits to local area schools. A Cyber College fair, cyber formation run and golf tournament also attracts talent and friendly competition.

The 375th CG is also working with the Midwest Cyber Center to increase cyber skills in today’s workforce by creating a fast track cyber career path for nontraditional career seekers. This registered apprenticeship is a unique, flexible training system that combines job related technical instruction with structured on-the-job learning experiences and online coursework.

Packler explained that apprentices start working from day one. They receive incremental wage increases as they become more proficient on the job.

“We also established the first 24-hour Cyber Technology and Research Lab in the region through our partnership with them,” Packler said. “The lab provides access to tools and technology that potential and current cyber professionals can use to develop and enhance their skills and strengthen our cyber workforce.”

Chief Master Sgt. Diane Slazinik, 375th CG superintendent, added that they and their partners have successfully fostered a self-sustaining network of programs and educational resources in the region that fully support the cyber community.

“We are working to refine these outreach initiatives while emphasizing that we must continue to protect our cyber data,” she said.

This is critical because cyber enables every Air Force mission, and threats to these operations continue to grow exponentially.

Packler said, that “cyber changes every single day, unlike other domains we fight in.

We are working to refine these outreach initiatives while emphasizing that we must continue to protect our cyber data.

Chief Master Sgt. Diane Slazinik, 375th CG superintendent

“We need to stop thinking of cyber as an office automation platform but rather a mission system required for our Air Force to perform its mission. Without cyber, air missions do not happen.”

And with the help of the 375th CG, Airmen who are honing their skills while helping to develop a future work force of professionals, they’ll protect those air missions for both peacetime and combat operations.

  Comments