Science and Technology News

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cyber Airman-development strategically critical to the nation

by Senior Master Sgt. Dean J. Miller
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

4/9/2013 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Cyber Airman development became the focus of discussion at Cyber 1.3 in Colorado Springs Monday as Chief Master Sgt. Linus Jordan, Command Chief, Air Force Space Command, addressed space and cyber industry leaders at the conference prior to official opening of the 29th National Space Symposium.

Chief Jordan and a civilian aerospace leader were participants in a moderated panel discussion that encouraged audience participation via e-mail. The interactive forum quickly moved through topics including youth interest in an evolving cyber culture, common talent pool recruitment considerations, challenges of long-term development of a professional cyber force, and the critical roles of cyber-trained Airmen.

Chief Jordan, invested in developing cyber Airmen both as command chief for the Air Force major command responsible for the cyber mission and as a father of an Airman in the cyber operations career field, challenged common assumptions that people fall into only the popular categories of digital native or digital immigrant. Chief Jordan offered a third category: the digitally disadvantaged.

"There are demographics in our country where young people, or people of any age, may not have had the opportunity - educationally or economically - to be exposed to have the opportunity to use and leverage technology," said Chief Jordan. "Just because someone was born into an era, doesn't mean they experienced what that era was all about."

Before cyber professionals, Airmen or civilians, can be recruited and developed, young people must be aware of, interested in and somewhat familiar with the cyber culture. Chief Jordan emphasized the need for a national focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, citing Air Force support of the annual CyberPatriot competition as an example of a positive experience in STEM areas. CyberPatriot is a national high school cyber defense competition designed to inspire high school students to aspire to STEM degrees and cybersecurity careers.

"There is goodness in that type of program (CyberPatriot) for those young Americans, whether they join our team or not, because it exposes them to what the opportunities of the future may be," Chief Jordan said. "More importantly, it reinforces just how critically important STEM is to them as individuals and to us as a nation."

The panelists took questions during the session and one participant asked, "If the demands of the cyber domain are so different compared to traditional military domains, does application of traditional military standards still make sense?". Chief Jordan was quick to respond.

"Airmen are Airmen first. Just like Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, they are military professionals first, regardless of their technical discipline and expertise -- especially in an environment as complex as cyber is for us today. We have to have professionals who are trained to a common level of discipline, standards, understanding and behavior before we can entrust them with the responsibilities and authorities that we do, in an environment as dynamic and complex as cyber," said Chief Jordan.

"The last thing you want is someone who does not have that standard grounding to operate autonomously in that mission area. It can very quickly have national security-level implications. Given our current workforce, we entrust our most junior enlisted Airmen and our most junior company grade officers with some pretty significant responsibilities in this mission area," said Chief Jordan. "Without that fundamental thread of training, discipline, and standards that runs through every Airman, we set ourselves up for failure. Cyber is one of those areas that changes too quickly, is too important and too pervasive to take chances with."

Another question from the panel was about developing the culture and making the mission area 'fun'. Chief Jordan was less interested in making Cyber appear fun than he was about inspiring a sense of service in current and future cyber Airmen, based on the satisfaction they get from positively impacting operations from the tactical to strategic and national levels every day. This led to an opportunity for Chief Jordan to expand on the role of Cyber Airmen deployed to the Combatant Commands.

"These Americans are warriors. Though they may typically serve in an operations center, or some other obscure location, at the end of the day, they are as prone to deploy into harm's way to support national security as anyone else," said Chief Jordan. "As the Combatant Commands around the world continue to learn what cyber warriors bring to the fight, we see more and more requests for forces placing cyber Airmen 'boots on ground' to support combatant commanders. When we talk about cyber and space warriors, we cannot allow ourselves to think that these are Airmen 'removed from the fight'. Regardless of where they sit, more important than anything, are the capabilities that these professionals bring to bear in execution of national security."

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