Next Generation of Cyber Professionals At Meade High
by U.S. Army Steven Stover
780th Military Intelligence Brigade
Service members and Army Civilians representing U.S. Cyber
Command (USCC) and the National Security Agency teach high school
students from throughout Anne Arundel County Public Schools about
the basics of cybersecurity as part of the Air Force Association
(AFA) CyberPatriot CyberCamp at Meade High School.
High CyberCamp began with an opening ceremony in the high school’s
media center and was attended by Maj. Gen. Timothy Haugh, commander
of the Cyber National Mission Force, Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott
Stalker, the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Cyber Command and the
National Security Agency, Col. (retired) Peter Jones, the AFA
Central Region president, Dr. Frederick Rivers, the principal for
Meade High School, as well as several local state representatives
and business leaders.
July 29, 2019 - Service members
and Army Civilians representing U.S. Cyber Command (USCC)
and the National Security Agency are teaching high school
students from throughout Anne Arundel County Public Schools
about the basics of cybersecurity as part of the Air
Force Association (AFA) CyberPatriot CyberCamp at Meade High
School. (U.S. Army photo by Steven Stover, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade)
Stalker was the guest speaker and specifically addressed the
CyberCamp attendees when he said, “In this environment, in
cybersecurity, in STEM, all of the opportunities are out there.”
“There will be times where it’s hard, where it’s challenging,
when you might say ‘I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into, this
is not for me. Push through,” said Stalker. “Grab a mentor, ask
questions, persevere through, and I promise you on the backend,
there are opportunities there. Whether you are creating the next
version of Fortnite, creating your own
company, or if you decide to walk across the street and work with us
at the National Security Agency and United States Cyber Command, all
of those opportunities will be there for you.”
is a computer science resource teacher and DoDEA (Department of
Defense Education Activity) Cyber LAUNCH Grant resource teacher for
Anne Arundel County Public Schools, and works out of Meade High
School. Serota said there are only three CyberPatriot programs
throughout the county.
“CyberPatriot is a national
competition, really a series of competitions, throughout the school
year and the students learn how to secure images,” said Serota.
“They use virtual machines and they learn how to secure Windows,
Ubuntu, and Linux machines. They learn all the basics of
cybersecurity to include networking, cryptography, encryption,
operating system basics, settings and password settings.”
Serota said CyberPatriot is an important program not only because
cybersecurity is critical to national security, but also because of
the career opportunities for those students that get involved.
“It’s a very wide-ranging field and the students are not aware
of these opportunities,” said Serota. “CyberPatriot is a pathway to
let them understand what they can do after high school and college.”
Before the training began on the first day of CyberCamp, 1st Lt.
Conner Wissmann, a cyberspace operations officer assigned to the
781st Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion (Cyber), 780th MI Brigade
(Cyber), and the lead CyberPatriot mentor for Meade High School,
cautioned the students about the dangers of computer hacking and
malware, and their responsibilities when they get on a computer.
“When I get behind a computer the image that I’ve been given –
the cyber student image – has tools on it that can do bad things to
good networks, including the school’s network. So, this is your code
of conduct that basically says I will not do bad things to
networks…bad things are those things that you shouldn’t do,” said
To emphasize the negative aspects of computer use,
April Taylor-Melton, a CyberPatriot mentor and battalion IT
specialist with the 781st MI Bn., and her colleagues discussed
credit card skimming, cyber-bullying and recent cyber incidents such
as the Equifax data breach in 2017, the compromise of T-Mobile
customer data in 2018, and the recent ransomware attack on the City
“I think there are two primary reasons for the
students to be here,” said Wissman. “One is for their personal gain.
They won’t get taught these things anywhere else, not in school, not
at home…it is worth their time to be here.”
reason is to foster good digital citizens,” added Wissmann. “We hear
about these attacks and we had some lessons today where the students
were presenting them to us. A lot of the cyberattacks are the result
of bad digital hygiene or not understanding how computers work. Even
if the student doesn’t become excited or doesn’t get into this
field, they can still learn something that will protect them or
their families, or society as a whole. It’s exciting and that’s why
According to Taylor-Melton, the computer
classes taught in schools usually focus on PowerPoint, Excel, the
Microsoft Office services. Students are not taught about the
operating systems or how to protect themselves.
July 29, 2019 - April Taylor-Melton, a CyberPatriot
mentor and battalion IT specialist with the 781st Military
Intelligence (MI) Battalion (Cyber), 780th MI Brigade
(Cyber), is teaching high school students about cyber
security at the Air Force Association (AFA) CyberPatriot CyberCamp at Meade High School.
(U.S. Army photo by Steven Stover, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade)
“Even if it’s for just these two weeks, the classes have given
them much more than what they already knew,” said Taylor-Melton.
“Previously, they have never touched Linux, some of them have never
even heard about Linux, and even when we had an operator come in
here, a hacker, and tell them what he does, it provided them with a
broader view of what cybersecurity is and what it can be.”
The mentors were clear, however, that CyberPatriot was not hacker
training, but rather a fun way to learn cyber security skills that
would be useful to them in the future.
mentors: Wissmann, Taylor-Melton, Dan Sorensen, an 781st MI Bn.
Analyst, Spc. Jacob Cochran and Sgt. Joshua Abraham, both from the
741st MI Bn., 704th MI Brigade, and CTN2 (Cryptologic Technician
Networks) David Mason, Cyber Strike Activity 63, U.S. Navy Cyber
Command, remarked that without the support of their chain of
command, they wouldn’t be able to volunteer.
“On Monday, at
the opening ceremony, when Lt. Col (Nadine) Nally saw the three of
us from the 781st sitting in those chairs, she realized if we
weren’t here there would be no CyberPatriot program,” said
Taylor-Melton. “Our commander realized how much time and effort we
have put into this – I was going to take leave for two weeks to be
here and she said ‘no, this was my place of duty.’ I think, going
forward when other Soldiers and Civilians see this they might
volunteer as well.”
Wissmann said the other CyberPatriot
volunteer, who has worked behind the scenes, is Regina Giles. He
said that Giles was the strategist who was the driving force behind
getting the CyberPatriot program established at Meade High, as well
as another high school in Chantilly, Virginia.
Serota is very
thankful for the CyberPatriot mentors who have volunteered in their
personal time to instruct and mentor the students throughout the
school year and CyberCamp.
“The mentors are professionals
with expertise that we don’t have in the school system. We have a
lot of dedicated educators, but very few, if any that have that
professional, hands-on experience.”
Serota said that Anne
Arundel County Public Schools interested in starting their own
CyberPatriot program should contact AFA, have an educator willing to
accept the additional responsibility, and a computer lab. If the
school doesn’t have the expertise, they could request mentors,
either by contacting the Fort Meade public affairs office or one of
the many cybersecurity companies within the central Maryland area.
AFA provides all the training materials, the student and facilitator
guides, the specs, and the virtual machine images for the
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