by Senior Airman Joshua Eikren
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
11/18/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Under
the direction of the Air Force's community partnering program, Scott's
Cyber Airmen have joined forces with other cyber experts in the region
to participate in the newly formed Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence.
Base officials will work with the Leadership Council Southwestern
Illinois, Southwestern Illinois College and St. Clair County Military
Affairs to develop a Cyber Security community that looks to enhance
education and job opportunities in the region.
"The Cyber Center of Excellence is a non-profit organization that will
bring multiple independent activities from government, businesses,
schools, and academia into one cohesive and concerted effort. We all
have common goals so it makes sense that we could join forces to improve
our community's Cyber Security resources," said Donna Davis, 375th
Communications Group Technical Director.
According to the Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence, its top priority is
workforce development. They will focus first on the growing cyber
footprint at Scott Air Force Base, which includes new Cyber Readiness
Support Squadrons that will stand up Dec. 1. Second, they want to look
at the many other cyber-intensive industries operating across the St.
Louis region, such as finance, healthcare, and government.
"The Southwestern Illinois community is engaged in developing an
interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, known as
STEM, which traditionally serves as the foundational knowledge for Cyber
Security related work. However, our workforce needs are outpacing the
resources we have available, so we need to accelerate our efforts," said
There are several Cyber Center of Excellence working groups which are
focused on improving Cyber Security skillsets in local workforce,
improving community Cyber Security awareness and developing local Cyber
Security economic opportunities.
Senior Master Sgt. Diane Slazinik, 375th Communications Support
Squadron, said "It's essential to the success of the missions executed
at Scott AFB to foster an increased capacity to develop emerging and
future Cyber Professionals in the local community. The growing need to
defend the U.S. against persistent cyber threats requires specific cyber
skills. The available workforce nationwide is not currently able to
meet the exponentially growing need for technically skilled cyber
This partnership is seen as not only a way to strengthening community
engagement, but to also improve the Air Force's way of completing the
mission, she added.
"I have been a cyber professional in the Air Force for 18 years, and as
our profession has grown and changed it has become increasingly apparent
how difficult it can be to cultivate the necessary skills to accomplish
the mission," said Slazinik. "Any community initiative designed to
inspire and engage people as early as possible to pursue technical
careers has the potential to deliver long term benefits by increasing
the capabilities of our future Airmen and community partners--and this
is one of the goals of the Cyber Center of Excellence."
Slazinik said she believes the Cyber Center of Excellence will help them
define the necessary training for this workforce and provide a
mechanism to deliver it.
Reaching out to the community, the Cyber Center of Excellence will get
involved by laying the groundwork needed for individuals to pursue and
succeed in the cyber career field.
Davis added, "Scott members have a wealth of experience to draw upon as
mentors in local schools, advisors concerning the workforce skills
needed, and potentially as future Cyber Security workforce members, so
it's important we are involved in identifying the path forward and
provide support along the way."
The increasing importance of Cyber Security and growing mission needs at
Scott AFB will rely heavily on the available cyber workforce.
Slazinik said, "As one of the larger consumers of this workforce, our
engagement to support efforts within the local community will help to
ensure it can meet the employment needs of the installation as well as
those of our community partners."
Getting young Airman involved is just one way Scott can impact the community through its support and guidance.
"Our Airman have the opportunity to share their Air Force story and
expertise with students in the local schools and knowledge is our best
defense," said Davis. "Cyber Security information and awareness reduces
the negative impacts on all of us."
Slazinik said, "I have been involved in extending STEM opportunities to
K-12 students through military and community initiatives for the last 10
years. My hope, through the Cyber Center of Excellence, is to excite
young students to pursue STEM careers, to reach out to under-represented
populations and equalize the opportunities to be on the cutting edge of
technology by opening them up to what is possible at a young age. The
goal is to continue to nurture their curiosity throughout their
formative years as well."
By improving cyber security awareness in young people, the Cyber Center
of Excellence looks to create an interest in the growing education and
awareness of employment opportunities that are available.