As our society functions on information superhighways, cybersecurity is crucial to ensuring the integrity of defense infrastructure, sensitive material and individuals’ private data. But today, technology progresses faster than professionals can acquire the necessary skillsets to combat potential cybersecurity threats. 

In 2017, Andrew Laramore ’18 realized this concern and founded the Corps of Cadets’ Cyber Operations Special Unit to address the ever-growing importance of cybersecurity in today’s world, especially regarding military operations. Learn how this special unit provides cadets specialty training, applicable certifications, and personal and professional development opportunities.

 

In the Domain

Todd Weaver '21 serves as commander for the Corps of Cadets' Cyber Operations Special Unit.

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.”

 

More than Tech

Since its founding, the unit equips cadets not only with an increased technical skillset, but also a new sense of leadership. Guest speakers within the cybersecurity field share their knowledge and experiences, and students have the unique opportunity to attend learning conferences and work with real-world professionals. “Our cadets become better leaders and communicators,” Allison said. “Whether it is in cyber, leadership or team environments, they learn how to work effectively and to adapt on a global scale.”

The Corps of Cadets' Cyber Operations Special Unit allows cadets to learn the latest skills as they prepare for futures in the cybersecurity industry.

The unit also offers cadets the opportunity to earn up to three cybersecurity certifications that provide both experience and proof of knowledge cadets can utilize in the industry: CompTIA Security+, eJPT (eLearnSecurity Junior Penetration Tester) and CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker). Through their time in this unit, cadets are prepared to pass the exams for these certifications and apply their skillsets well beyond their time in the Corps.

Defining a Culture

Although only a few years have passed since its founding, the Cyber Operations Special Unit is paving the way for the Corps to address the needs of the modern day and future. “So many special units are older,” Weaver noted, “but it is amazing to be a part of something new within an organization built on tradition; we get to set the culture.” 

Looking forward, the unit plans to grow with the industry and adapt to ensure that its objective to develop future generations of cybersecurity professionals is always fulfilled. The top priority is its students and ensuring that current and future cadets can enhance and adapt their cyber skillsets to this dynamic field, while continuing to provide additional learning opportunities through professional certifications and competitions. 

The culture within the unit is one of selfless service and dedication to excellence. “We are not stagnant,” Allison said. “We are pathfinders for future units and will always seek opportunities to serve our nation’s needs.”

To support cybersecurity initiatives in the Corps of Cadets, contact Matt Jennings ’95 at (979) 845-7604 or by submitting a message using the form below. 

Contact:

Matt Jennings '95

Senior Director of Development-Central Division-Corps of Cadets
Corps of Cadets
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