CyberPatriot teams make semis

by 2nd Lt. Meredith Hein
24th Air Force Public Affairs


1/21/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Leadership from the 24th Air Force met with CyberPatriot semi-finalist teams in the San Antonio area Jan. 15-16.

Of the 1,500 teams competing in the national CyberPatriot competition, only 50 made it to the semi-finals. Of those 50, nine teams are from the San Antonio area.

"It was impressive to see the enthusiasm of the CyberPatriot team and how excited they were to have reached the semi-finals of this competition, out of 1500 teams" said Lt. Col. Jim Burleigh, Cyber Mission Forces Planner for 24th AF, following his meeting with the semi-finalist team from Southwest High School. "I think they were surprised as I explained to the team how their work directly relates to some of the Air Force cyber mission sets--protecting our information against those trying to compromise it."

CyberPatriot is a national high school cyber defense competition which aims to inspire high school students towards careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, according to its website. The program was started in 2009 by the Air Force Association at the 25th Annual AFA Air Warfare Symposium.

"There is a national need to defend the critical infrastructure of the United States," said Col. Matthew Baker, A2 Director and Senior Intelligence Officer from 24th AF while meeting with a CyberPatriot team. "You all have such a bright future. Keep doing what you're doing, and you'll write your own ticket."

Each team is made up of between four and six members, with one alternate. The team's goal is to protect virtual images as fast as possible--essentially, cyber defense.

"We all focus on one operating system, but we switch around a lot," said Steve Flores, team captain from Southwest High School.

Airmen from 24th AF provided mentorship on cyber and leadership while meeting with the teams. "Leaders focus the team's efforts and look over everyone else. Don't be afraid to call yourself a leader," said Burleigh.

The high school semi-finals were conducted Jan. 17-19. After that round, 12 teams will move on to the CyberPatriot finals in Washington, D.C.

Middle school teams were allowed to compete this year for the first time in the competition's history. A team from Scobee Middle School in San Antonio made it to the semi-finals in this first iteration. More than 100 teams participated in the middle school competition, with 12 teams making the semi-finals round. The final two will go on to compete in Washington, D.C.

Baker spoke to the Scobee Middle School team Jan. 16, relating the CyberPatriot competition to the mission the 24th AF is carrying out every day.

"It's my job to know what the other guy is doing so we can defend and keep our systems safe," he said.
Baker also emphasized the value of teamwork in this competition: "The days of individuals operating on their own are over. It takes a team effort."

The six-person team is made up of 7th and 8th graders, who are proactive in their network defense.

"It's really been them," said John Bushong, coach of the Scobee Middle School team. "Their motivation is what gets them through problems."

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