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Basic trainees begin cyber training

Students in Air Force basic military training learn about defending cyberspace during a training class Oct. 8, 2010. The course teaches basic operating fundamentals on the Air Force network and the significance of protecting the network to meet the Air Force mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

Students in Air Force basic military training learn about defending cyberspace during a training class Oct. 8, 2010. The course teaches basic operating fundamentals on the Air Force network and the significance of protecting the network to meet the Air Force mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The importance of defending cyberspace was taken to a new level when cyber training became a permanent fixture of the Air Force basic military training curriculum.

The first trainees attended a four-hour course devoted to defending the Air Force networks and operations in cyberspace Oct. 4. The course teaches basic operating fundamentals on the Air Force network and the significance of protecting the network to meet the Air Force mission.

"We're teaching about a warfighting domain that is essential to military operations: cyberspace," said Col. Shane Courville, the 737th Training Group commander. "(The course) gives trainees a foundation to understand that we're all cyber warriors.

"This course shows the importance of cyberspace to the Air Force mission and its impact. We are all cyber warriors and we all have a responsibility to ensure that we protect the cyber domain because military operations depend on it."

Training takes place in the fourth week of BMT and uses curriculum developed by Air Force Institute of Technology specialists under the guidance of Air Force Space Command officials.

To supplement the training, Air Education and Training Command officials purchased 120 computers. Once the computers are installed in two classrooms, trainees will receive an additional three-hour, practical-application segment in the seventh week.

Twenty-fourth Air Force specialists are working with BMT administrators on the training. The numbered Air Force became fully operational at Lackland AFB Oct. 1 and aligns under Air Force Space Command. Its mission is to provide combatant commanders with trained and ready cyber forces to plan and conduct cyberspace operations.

Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, the 24th Air Force commander, said the BMT cyber training exposes trainees to the mission assurance concept. He said it also instills how critical cyber resources are to the Air Force and reinforces the basic knowledge to keep information and systems secure.

"We are trying to convey that every Airman is a cyber wingman, a fellow warrior in cyberspace," General Webber said. "We are all on the front line, responsible for defending our network from all threats.

"Understanding what threats are in the cyber domain and how to follow the proper procedures to avoid compromising or damaging our systems is critical for all our Airmen," he said. "The BMT cyber curriculum allows us to embed cybersecurity principles at the earliest point in their career."

Dr. Laura Munro, an Air Force BMT advisor, said trainees are taught fundamentals about operating within the cyberspace domain and also become familiar with the Air Force portal.

One of the goals is to establish a protective mindset.

"It is extremely basic but also extremely important," Dr. Munro said, emphasizing the significance of protecting common access cards, pins and passwords. "These things might be taken lightly, but they are very critical."

Dr. Munro said before trainees entered BMT, they may have used computers and social networks but probably didn't understand how information on those networks can create security issues.

"We want trainees to be aware that (our enemies) are trying to get information from the government and how they do it," she said.

Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Slater observed one of the first training classes. The 24th AF command chief came away impressed, but not surprised, with the depth of questions trainees asked the instructor.

"Our basic trainees have spent their entire lives operating in the cyber domain and are comfortable with it as a discussion topic," he said. "The primary advantage of providing cyber training in BMT is to ensure every Airman has a common baseline of behavioral and performance expectations, and an accurate understanding of their mission impact as a network user, regardless of their specific Air Force specialty."

Among the first course participants were two trainees from the 331st Training Squadron, Flight 691. Both found the training beneficial.

"From personal research, I knew maybe half (of the course material)," said trainee Michael Mayes. "What I didn't realize was how much the Air Force relied on computers every day, and I didn't know attacks on the network were 24/7."

Trainee Matthew Freking said he was familiar with most of the training from his college information-technology background and avionics career-field choice. He was impressed by the Air Force's emphasis on cyber security.

"The Air Force is extremely conscious about security, and from the setup, know what they're doing," he said.

Colonel Courville said incorporating cyber training into the BMT curriculum now creates a benefit when the new Airman Training Complexes begin to come online.

"(As the ATCs are completed over the next six years), trainees will be using computers in the classroom for the first time in BMT history," he said. "We don't have that capability right now, but we will with the new complexes. (That will allow) us to reinforce the training they get in the classroom."


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