Innovative Airmen establishing cyber training center of excellence

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Erik Voron
  • 333rd Training Squadron
Keesler and the 333rd Training Squadron are home to the Air Force's second largest initial skills training pipeline, information technology fundamentals. More than 4,200 students come through the pipeline each year to become cyber warriors. To meet and stay ahead of operational needs and demands, the 333rd TRS has implemented three main lines of effort:

     1) Create the most revered cyber instructors in the Defense Department.
     2) Rapidly develop and produce operationally relevant curriculum to support warfighters
     3) Generate the most lethal cyber operators in the world 

The 333rd TRS recognizes that as a part of creating the most lethal cyber operators, we must invest in our supporting infrastructure. Sometimes this investment means renovating and modernizing existing areas. Renovations designed to provide numerous additional capabilities for cyber training in Dolan Hall were just completed. 

Lt. Col. Vincent T. Sullivan III, 333rd TRS commander, oversaw the effort and initiated the requirement to move to online testing. Second Lts. Eric Dayhuff and Jamison Cook finished what 2nd Lts. Philipp Wittmaack and Cody Benedict started back in October. They worked alongside the 81st Communications Squadron, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron and numerous Airmen to develop the requirement, plan the solution and implement the installation of network drops and reimaging of computers.  This network access has modernized current cyber training. and outfitted our instructors with tools that will revolutionize training and enhance our ability to fight and win in cyberspace.

"We received outstanding cooperation from all parties involved, especially the 81st CS," said Dayhuff, project manager. With help from the enlisted members of the 333rd TRS cyber support systems flight, Dayhuff and Cook imaged, placed online and tested approximately 100 computers. The 333d TRS has modernized training by implementing an online and automated testing system, increasing efficiency and delivering time and money savings to the Air Force. These efforts saved the Air Force an estimated 2865 man hours.

Joanne Baquero, 333rd TRS civilian instructor of the year, and Jack Dupree, instructor supervisor at Dolan Hall, were involved in this project from its inception. Dupree helped coordinate many of the background, hard-to-see processes that were crucial to the project's success. 

"Processes like deconflicting schedules between the 333d TRS and the online testing center help desk often go overlooked, but are vital to the success of a project like this," said Maj. Charles Wright, the squadron's director of operations. "Mr. Dupree's expertise in project management was pivotal to this projects success. We are lucky to have him on our team."

Baquero's knowledge of the overall online testing system eased the transition from an archaic testing process to a more modern and efficient process. It was her initiative to get the Block 2 software redeveloped into an application that was Air Force Network-approved and enabled the computers to be added to the AFNET.   

"The type of foresight that Baquero has to not only change the way things are done today, but to change an entire culture, is extremely rare," Master Sgt. Roshaun Jones, cyber support systems flight superintendent, pointed out. "She is truly a special instructor." 

Thomas Love, instructor-supervisor at Dolan Hall, directed the team that worked the physical connections for the computers. His team procured CAT 6 cables along with the other vital equipment to properly outfit the classrooms for online testing. 

"This was a great learning experience for our team," Love commented. "The hands-on experience of installing and setting up an actual network is priceless." 

Given the positive results from this hands-on training, the squadron is looking for more ways to incorporate hands-on experience in all of its courses. 

Others involved in implementing the upgrades are 2nd Lts. Holden Lanier, Raymond Sou, Ryan Zacher, Theresa Cameron and Samuel Kiekhaefer; Tech. Sgts. Lucas Biddulph and Gilbert Barrera; Staff Sgt. Zachary Wagner and information technology fundamental students from the 336th and 338th TRS.

"I am truly proud of everyone's effort to get this done faster than anyone ever thought possible," Sullivan said. "With this now established model that others can emulate, the online testing concept can be pushed to all courses here at Keesler in short order. This will modernize our curriculum, customize our training requirements for the 21st century warfighter and optimize our capability to deliver a world-class product to defend America's cyber networks."