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Civil Air Patrol cyber academy returns in full force with new location

July 29, 2021

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HAMPTON, Va. (July 29, 2021) – After a complete rebranding and forced hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) National Cyber Academy (CNCA) was held in Hampton this past month with full support and interest from both adults (senior members) and cadets (ages 14 through 20). Previous iterations were hosted at a National Guard facility in Maryland.

Thirteen cadets and four senior members from eight different states attended the academy, hosted by the 192nd Wing, Virginia Air National Guard (VAANG). The VAANG provided classroom facilities and instructors from the 185th Cyberspace Operations Squadron (COS). CAP SMSgt Jared Mast directed the academy, but also serves as an advanced cyber warfare operator with the 185 COS. When asked why he chose to lead the academy, he shared, “I owe the opportunity to the National Cyber Team, who not only asked about me becoming the Activity Director in the winter of 2020, but needed an entirely new course to replace the previously offered courses.  I was able to come up with and execute the Cyber Operations Fundamentals Course with direct support from the Air Force and Air National Guard at multiple levels.  I decided to dedicate my time to this activity because I see firsthand the challenge that the Air Force has with recruiting and filtering the candidates with the aptitude that is required to excel in the field of Cyberspace Operations, and this activity exposes those with the aptitude, to the career field, and provides a tangible experience that can propel them directly towards the career field.” 

The academy split the students into two different courses, the brand-new Cyber Operations Fundamentals Course (COFC) and the previously held Cyberspace Networking Course (CNC). The activity name and curriculum for the courses was originally redesigned for summer 2020, which integrated cyber security certification standards into the career exploration courses. The courses also dovetail with the cadet program’s new cyber aerospace education module 7, which will be available this September for all cadets.

The COFC provided an almost identical experience to what an Air Force member encounters during Mission Qualification Training on the CY-39 Interceptor Platform. Air Force members must master this training before being recommended for an initial qualification evaluation. This requires COFC students to be experienced in areas such as Linux command line, Windows PowerShell, host-based firewalls, ports and protocols, and networking before even coming to the activity in order to have most of the same baseline knowledge that a new Air Force member going through the training would have. Cadet Major David Reid, of Columbus Composite Squadron, was the distinguished graduate for the COFC. He shared “I most enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the course. COFC allowed my peers and me to experience what Air Force cyber operators do every day to prepare for cyber warfare. I am most grateful for the opportunity. It was priceless. COFC solidified my intent to pursue a cybersecurity career. Stopping the bad guys and defending information just sounds awesome. I enjoy the fast pace nature of cyber coupled with the constant learning and the defensive/offensive mindset one must have. This fall, I will pursue a Cyber Operations degree at Cedarville University. I am super excited to study cybersecurity and am looking forward to growing my skills.”

The CNC walked through the concepts tested by the CompTIA Network+ certification exam while using Cisco equipment to provide a hands-on experience. Throughout the week, the cadets configured Cisco networking devices from scratch and implemented security best practices. CAP also currently partners with Cisco Networking Academy to offer online courses for all members to continue their training and education in the networking world. Cadet Technical Sergeant Arjun Fadnavis, of Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron, was the distinguished graduate for CNC. He shared, “The thing I liked most about CNC was getting hands-on experience on real hardware. Most other networking courses I looked at were simply theory, which was boring to me. The CNC definitely inspired me to go deeper into looking at Cyber Security as a career. The CNCA hosted lunch Q&As and tours with cyber-related Air Force personnel, which inspired me to enter a cyber field in the military. I will definitely be taking more steps in my cybersecurity education. I am looking to get my [CompTIA] Network+ certification and I am eagerly waiting for December 1st, when I can apply for COFC.” 

CAP’s National Commander, Maj Gen Mark Smith, visited the activity for the capstone exercise, and gave the keynote address at the graduation ceremony. He tweeted, “[I am] enjoying time with the cadets and adult cadre at the Cyber Academy National Cadet Special Activity. Awesome cadets learning valuable skills that are much needed by our nation.” 

CAP’s cyber efforts are focused on education and awareness, operations, and mission support are continuing to evolve with new partnerships and opportunities. For the latest information, please visit https://cyber.cap.gov/

Additional photos from this activity: https://photos.cap.gov/National-Cadet-Special-Activities/National-Cyber-Academy/Hampton-Roads-Campus 

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