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Tar River Composite Squadron Cadets Learn About Cyber Security Through the CyberPatriot Competition

Middle school team members
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Middle school team members C/A1C Gabrielle Howell, C/TSgt Alex Cherry, and C/A1C Janson Reason discuss their next steps during Round 1 on 14 November 2015 Photo credit: 2d Lt Liz Dunster (click image to view full size)
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2/18/2016–Three teams of cadets from Tar River Composite Squadron recently competed in CyberPatriot VIII, the eighth edition of the Air Force Association’s annual cyber security competition.  According to the CyberPatriot website, “CyberPatriot was conceived by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire high school students toward careers in cyber security or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation's future.“  While competing and training, participants also learn about real world problem solving by working to accomplish team goals and developing their organizational skills. 

Tar River Composite Squadron has participated in CyberPatriot for five years, starting with CyberPatriot IV.  In previous years one high school team represented the squadron, but this year there was so much interest from cadets that one middle school team and two high school teams competed. The middle school team competed in the first two rounds of the Middle School Division competition, while the two high school teams competed in the first two rounds as well as the State Round of the All Service Division.  One high school team competed on Friday evenings at the squadron building, while the other high school team and the middle school team competed on Saturday or Sunday afternoon at the Dunster/Green residence because the squadron did not have sufficient internet bandwidth or computers for all three teams to compete at once.  Maj William Hess, coach of the Friday night team, said, “I am impressed with how our cadets handled these limitations, and I am already working on ways to eliminate them in time for CyberPatriot IX next fall.”

Three training sessions run by 2d Lt Nicholas Green, were offered using the curriculum provided by CyberPatriot to prepare for the competition.  2d Lt Green’s dining room was transformed into a computer lab on Saturday afternoons for long six hour sessions - with up to nine cadets crowded around a selection of PCs and laptops - presenting a crash course in cyber security, networking, and, most importantly, team work.

Second Lt Green said, “We started CyberPatriot VIII with one completely new team and the other two teams with one cadet each with experience from the previous year’s competition.  The cadets threw themselves into the training and competition with great enthusiasm.  It was very gratifying to see them progressing from knowing almost nothing about security and networking to our most successful team completing the State Round within 11 points of making it to the Category Round in the Gold Division.”  C/MSgt Richard Green, who was competing for the second time, appreciated the training and said, “I learned a lot more this year as we had one of the organizers do lessons on what we were doing.” 

At the squadron meeting on February 11, 2016, team members, coaches and mentors were presented with generous gift bags from CyberPatriot, which consisted of a certificate of participation, a USB hub, a t-shirt, a mouse pad, a lapel pin, a challenge coin and an ink pen.  Continuing a tradition he started last year, 2d Lt Green also presented the members with a memento - a large flashlight which proved to be a great hit with the recipients.

The middle school team consisted of C/TSgt Alex Cherry, C/A1C Gabrielle Howell, and C/A1C Janson Reason.  The Friday high school team consisted of C/Amn Dean Jackson, C/CMSgt James Medlin, and C/SrA Douglas Merrell.  The Saturday high school team consisted of C/MSgt Richard Green, C/Amn Audrey Fischer, C/A1C Nicole Reason, and C/A1C Sunshine  Tovar.  The coaches were 2d Lt Nicholas Green and Maj William Hess, and they were assisted by 2d Lt Liz Dunster, SM Daniel Merrell, C/1st Lt Jarrett Moss, and parent Ruby Barnes.

Tar River Composite Squadron meets on Thursdays from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Rocky Mount - Wilson Regional Airport.