In the Domain
Twice a week, 30 cadets spanning across several outfits assemble in the Ash Leadership Learning Center to learn the latest skills as they prepare for a future in the cybersecurity industry. Due to COVID–19, the unit continues to meet and train virtually, as well as participate in several competitions. There are no prerequisites or specific technical skills needed to join the unit.
“It does not matter about background or if their career aspirations span from the private sector to the armed services,” said Col. Kenneth Allison ’85, associate director for the Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership. “It is a place for all cadets.” The unit focuses on combining technical skills with critical thinking and leadership, reinforcing its resolve to cultivate and champion the cybersecurity realm’s future leaders.
As cadets prepare for the cybersecurity workforce, Todd Weaver ’21, the unit’s commander, stressed the importance of building a foundation of basic technical skills and cyber tactics. Core competencies, such as cryptography, good practices and sound judgment, information technology, and risk assessment become essential building blocks in every cadet’s cybersecurity toolbox. As they progress, advanced skills provide a deeper dive into more technical functions.
Ready, Set, Hack!
To showcase and exhibit proof of their training, the unit’s competition team, consisting of sophomores, juniors and seniors, attend virtual and in-person competitions and CTF (Capture-The-Flag) events against schools and teams from around the world. Additionally, the group competes at the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Cyber Exercise, the nation’s capstone competition, where members of the United States’ three service academies and six senior military colleges battle it out.
Designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations by the NSA, Texas A&M is progressing to the frontlines of cybersecurity research, education and training. The unit is committed to teaching and giving its cadets the ability to grow and test their skillsets in high-stress situations that require critical thinking and strategic analysis. The team is constantly improving, and its ultimate goal is to expand Texas A&M’s presence among cybersecurity competitions. “Our primary objective is to see continued growth in the cadets during these competitions,” Weaver said. “We want to strike fear into our opponents when they see Texas A&M’s Cyber Operations Special Unit in attendance.”