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Advancing Cyber Warfare Training With Escape Room
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Seth Haddix
November 24, 2021

Accelerating and changing the possibilities of learning, the U.S. Air Force 333rd Training Squadron implemented a new cyber escape room to test knowledge and sharpen the skillsets of cyber warfare students.

The students are put into a simulated hostile scenario, requiring them to think critically and apply their skills under pressure to “escape” the exercise.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Ethan Isaacson and 2nd Lt. Mackenzie Clay, 333rd Training Squadron cyber warfare officers, examine clues in the cyber escape room inside Stennis Hall at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, November 10, 2021. The escape room was implemented into the squadron to test the capabilities of cyber warfare students and sharpen their skillset. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Seth Haddix)
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Ethan Isaacson and 2nd Lt. Mackenzie Clay, 333rd Training Squadron cyber warfare officers, examine clues in the cyber escape room inside Stennis Hall at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, November 10, 2021. The escape room was implemented into the squadron to test the capabilities of cyber warfare students and sharpen their skillset. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Seth Haddix)

“Our students approached this challenge with no plan,” said 2nd Lt. Kendra Perkins, 333rd TRS cyber warfare officer and escape room project manager. “This forces them to adjust to the environment, preparing our students for any complex or uncertain situations they might face.”

From decoding cyphers and packet tracing to programming and networking, the room provides students with a hands-on training experience. Throughout this cyber warfare class iteration, only one team was able to complete the challenge, which included 2nd Lt. Ethan Isaacson, 333rd TRS cyber warfare officer.

“Most of our tests have been in a controlled environment, focusing on the most recent concepts we learned,” said Isaacson. “The escape room required us to apply all of our curriculum we’ve learned. We had to put trust in ourselves and each other and we came out of this room more confident in our skillset.”

Capt. Luke Thornton, 333rd TRS cyber warfare instructor, provided his perspective as the class instructor, overseeing how the teams took on the challenge.

“We are able to test the team dynamics, communication and camaraderie of our students,” said Thornton. “Our students were put into a new situation with a lot of pressure and they had to really think outside the box. We were able to test our students to the best of their capabilities.”

U.S. Air Force 333rd Training Squadron cyber warfare officers complete cyber tasks in the cyber escape room inside Stennis Hall at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, November 10, 2021. The escape room was implemented into the squadron to test the capabilities of cyber warfare students and sharpen their skillset. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Seth Haddix)
U.S. Air Force 333rd Training Squadron cyber warfare officers complete cyber tasks in the cyber escape room inside Stennis Hall at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, November 10, 2021. The escape room was implemented into the squadron to test the capabilities of cyber warfare students and sharpen their skillset. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Seth Haddix)

Perkins said the inspiration for the escape room was derived from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. and his action orders to accelerate change across the Air Force through the direction of transforming the way we learn across all facets of Air Force education and training curricula including but not limited to professional military education to reflect renewed emphasis on competition and warfighting.

“Our goal was to create an environment that highlighted gamification to stray away from the initial Q&A or multiple choice and have something hands-on that was able to apply critical thinking, teamwork and communication as well as creating scenarios built on high standards for competition,” said Perkins.

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