Students hired for cyber security

  • Published
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The Curtis E. LeMay Civil Air Patrol Composite Squadron, established in 1956, may be the oldest continuously operational squadron on Offutt Air Force Base, but their programs are geared toward the future.

The squadron recently participated in the National CyberPatriot Competition for the fourth time, tapping into the minds of their high school and middle school cadets.  

The event falls under the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association to inspire kindergarten through 12th grade students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines critical to our nation's future. ​

The competition puts teams of students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems.

Their goal is to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and harden the system while maintaining critical services. Teams compete for the top placement within their state and region, and the top teams in the nation earn all-expenses paid trips to Baltimore for the national finals competition where they can earn national recognition and scholarship money.​

“Each season the teams have gotten better and better,” said Lt. Col. David Waite, Curtis E. Lemay CAP Composite Squadron deputy commander of cadets. “Even though we have not made it to nationals yet, the end goal is still the same, helping the cadets learn about computer security so that they can help themselves and possible eventually enter the computer security career field.”

Not only have the cadets improved, but so has the squadron’s resources.

“The unit started off four years ago with a couple of cadets working on one very old laptop computer that had a battery life measured in minutes,” Waite said. “Four years later the squadron has two complete teams with eight up-to-date computers operating on a wireless local area network all paid for by grants received over the years.  Without these grants, none of this would have been possible.”