Air Force pushes cyber warrior training

The Air Force is establishing a professional force of cyber operators and developing cyber career paths for officers, enlisted personnel and civilians. The new Air Force Cyber Command and the Air National Guard are among the focal points of the plan.

“We’re asking ourselves, ‘What is a cyber warrior?’” Col. Anthony Buntyn, who is in line to become a brigadier general, told an industry audience at the Air Force IT Day sponsored by AFCEA in McLean, Va., Dec. 5. “What skills and equipment do they need? We are developing basic criteria.”

The Air Force intends to provide some basic cyber training to all who enter the service, said Maj. Gen. Charles Ickes, special assistant to the deputy chief of staff for operations, and plans and requirements at the Air National Guard.

In addition, as many as 40,000 cyber warfare specialists will be trained “as warriors, advocates and visionaries” for cyber operations. Ickes said.

The scope of the training involved will differ based on the assigned duties and could take six to 15 months. It could take seven to 10 years to develop the career cyber force the Air Force is envisioning, Ickes said.

“We’re trying to look at the best way to integrate air, space and cyber operations in everything we do,” Ickes added.

Cyber operators need the same freedom to maneuver as warfighters in the air or on the sea or land, Buntyn said.

“From a network standpoint, our priority is to ensure our networks are survivable under attack,” Buntyn added.

Ickes said the Air Force is working with universities, the Air Force Academy and the Doctrine Center to develop programs and curricula for cyber trainees. One result, he added, has been the development of a new Net Warfare Training course for enlisted personnel.

“The enlisted force will be performing the preponderance of this work,” Ickes said. “We are trying to create a career path and to make this a dynamic opportunity. I think it could be a very appealing career field for young kids as the come into the military.”

The officer force needs more broad training in the cyber area in addition to education about a particular area of expertise.

For Buntyn, connecting with private industry will be one key to developing the Air Force’s cyber skills. Ickes said the Air National Guard will provide one conduit for the transfer of cyber knowledge and skills to Air Force personnel.

Buxbaum is a freelancer writer in Bethesda, Md.

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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