184th IW hosts Cyber Patriot Boot Camp

Eleven high school students from the Wichita area participated in the Cyber Patriot Boot Camp hosted by the 184th Intelligence Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Oct. 14. Cyber Patriot is a National Youth Cyber Education Program that exposes students to various aspects of IT professions.(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Alex Brun)

By Senior Airman Alex Brun, 184th Public Affairs

As technology advances, cyber security has become a skill that is necessary in most career fields. On October 14, the 184th Intelligence Wing hosted a group of local Cyber Patriot students for cyber education training.

Cyber Patriot is a program created by the Air Force Association and is designed to inspire  students to pursue their interests in IT-related professions.

The group of high school students in attendance already had a base knowledge of how to secure a computer network.

“The cyber security career field is never going to go anywhere,” said Airman 1st Class Jonathan Vega, network administrator, 22nd Communications Squadron, and a Cyber Patriot volunteer. “What these kids are learning is exactly what I do for the Air Force, so they are getting a leg up by already learning it.”

The boot camp teaches the importance of security and provides hands-on experience in protecting personal electronic devices and information from various threats.

“I want to make sure they are prepared, because they are the future,” said Vega. “They want to get in there and basically, better protect themselves in an ever growing cyber world.”

One of the main events for Cyber Patriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition puts teams in the position of newly hired IT professionals who manage a small company’s network.

In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems. They must find cyber security vulnerabilities within the images, harden the system and maintain critical services in a six hour period.

“The program is meant to introduce high school students to cyber security, which is quickly becoming a baseline skill necessary for almost anyone regardless of their ultimate career,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Vanderziel, commander, 299th Network Operations Security Squadron.

Lt. Col. Andrew VanderZiel, Commander, 299th Network Operations Security Squadron, visits with students during the Cyber Patriot Boot Camp hosted by the 184th Intelligence Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Oct. 14. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Alex Brun)

According to Vanderziel, the event offered technical training and mentorship to local students involved in Cyber Patriot.

“For those interested directly in the career, we offer technical training and chance to meet and discuss the field with current professionals,” said Vanderziel. “Our volunteers work in a variety of jobs for different companies and they work hard to prepare those students for the competition.”

In addition to providing a place to practice cyber skills, members of the 184th IW give back to the local community through the boot camps.

“Those students who choose to join our wing bring talent and expertise, while the event itself speaks to the community about our mission,” said Vanderziel. “It’s a fun and productive way to further our state’s cyber community.”

These events tie together different parts of our community, as the cyber community in Wichita continues to grow.