16th Air Force Airmen RISE UP, LIFT UP mentoring students in Uvalde

  • Published
  • By Rabia Coombs and Raquel McNees
  • 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber)

Airmen from across the 16th Air Force enterprise volunteered to mentor more than 40 students during both camps designed to introduce participants to cybersecurity, online safety and proper cyber hygiene to a community that was affected by the tragic school shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24.   

“Like many others, I thought about my own kids when I first heard about the tragedy,” said  Staff Sgt. Stephen Oh, cyber warfare operator, 39th Information Operations Squadron Detachment 1 and volunteer for the camps. “I wanted to help, and I wanted the kids to know that we were there for them.”

The two camps called SA Cyber4 Uvalde was a community partnership between CyberTexas Foundation, Air & Space Forces Association, University of Texas at San Antonio, Alamo AFCEA, El Progreso Memorial Library and 16th Air Force.

“Upon discovering that many of the instructors were military and that we all came from different parts of the state, the kids expressed that they felt safer and they felt supported and cared for,” said Oh.

Known as the Cyber Viking to his students, Fredrick Hall, a network engineer with the 690th Intelligence Support Squadron, was the lead curriculum developer and instructor for the camps using his experience in cyber to teach the Uvalde students. 

“The purpose of both camps was to provide a distraction from the tragic events of May 24 and to begin working with Uvalde CISD (Consolidated Independent School District) to create cybersecurity and computer science courses in the middle and high schools to serve as pathways for students to pursue careers in the cyber industry,” said Hall.

El Progreso Memorial Library saw the importance in hosting these camps and educating these young students to be vigilant in cybersecurity.

 “As a civic and cultural center, the library was delighted to use its facilities to host this unique and wonderful opportunity for our young people to receive training and information on the latest techniques and information on this vital subject,” said Mendell Morgan, director of El Progresso Memorial Library. “Our young people are our future leaders and information technology will continue to be increasingly integral to daily life activities, so online security will become an increasingly important concern.”
Shortly after 16th Air Force’s activation in 2019, a new motto was chosen, “Rise Up, Lift Up” like the legendary phoenix 16th Air Force returned powerful and with a new mission that operates globally across 16 total force wings, two centers, 63 groups, 297 squadrons and 128 worldwide operating locations with 49,000 dedicated professionals supporting the ongoing cyber mission.
These dedicated cyber professionals at 16th Air Force have taken this motto to the next level by extending it to the Uvalde community.
“In tough times people need distractions and an uplift,” said Airman First Class D’Andree Martinez, Air Force Information Network Mission Assurance Center network operations coordinator, 690th Cyberspace Operations Group.  “Bringing something enjoyable and fun for the children of a heartbroken community can help in mending the wounds of the people.”
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