MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Alabama —
The ability to disrupt US military and civilian operations is no longer a hypothetical exercise perpetrated by bad actors. In fact, the number of cyber threats to the country’s security is increasing exponentially every year.
In response, 29 scholars from the Language Enabled Airman Program – including two Space Force Guardians, two Marine Corps Foreign Zone Officers and two Air Force Crypto-Linguists – gathered at Maxwell Air Force Base from bases around the world for 10 days of advanced training during Air Force Culture. and the Language Center’s second annual Cyber Language Bootcamp July 6-17, 2022.
“Cyber is made up of technology and people, so understanding one but not the other only makes you 50% capable of operating in a space that impacts all areas of responsibility. We worked with our partners at the Air Force Cyber College Language Training Detachment and the Defense Language Institute to create a unique educational event to merge cyber academics and foreign language teaching for the ” mastery of the subject” in cyber. As a result, students will be able to work effectively with their coalition and allied partners and provide information on adversary intentions,” said AFCLC Director Howard Ward. “The human side of cyber is often overshadowed in discussions of technology, but in reality, actions in cyberspace reflect the decisions of the humans who operate there. Graduates of this course are equipped to deal with both, which inherently makes us more competitive.”
The AFCLC has partnered with the Air Force Cyber College, Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, Air University Teaching and Learning Center, Defense Language Institute Language Training Detachment, and the 341st Cyberspace Operations Squadron, Ft. George G. Meade, Md., for the educational event.
“As Cyber LITE graduates move on to jobs interacting with our mission partners or supporting Embassy operations, the cyber education they receive here will allow for much better guidance to senior leaders and, most importantly, better results in navigating the complexities of cyber and information operations for the United States and its partners,” said Colonel David Bosko, commandant of the Air Force Cyber College.
During the two weeks of Cyber LITE, Chinese-Mandarin, French, German, Russian and Spanish speaking participants explored how the United States and other cultures approach partnership and competition in cyberspace. Each morning was filled with presentations and interactive discussions by guest speakers, and the afternoons were spent in small groups working on a final presentation in their target languages to demonstrate the value of understanding language integration and of the culture of US competitors and strategic partners with cyber and information operations, tactics and strategies.
Guest speakers, such as Air University Commandant and President Lt. Gen. James B. Hecker; Dr. Mark Conversino, Academic Director of Air University; and Russell Frasz, Director of Force Development and Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel, and Services, United States Air Force Headquarters, presented a wide range of operational topics cyber and strategic focused on the current era of global integrated deterrence. Additionally, senior leadership insights were also provided unique high-level perspectives by Air Force Cyber Forward and 16th Air Force representatives.
“Air University has been very successful in adding a fair amount of cyber and space subjects to our curriculum,” Hecker said. “We work closely with our international partners on IT issues and threats, alerting them when their systems are compromised and collaborating on other cybersecurity issues they may encounter. However, there are always better ways to expand this network and do it better, which is where this Cyber LITE comes in. We need to work better and more efficiently with our allies and strategic partners around the world. whole, so knowing the cultures and languages as LEAP and FAO scholars puts us in a better position to do that.
Conversino explained how the importance of linguistic and cultural understanding in the age of integrated deterrence is recognized at the highest levels of the federal government as “essential skills.”
“There’s a reason you’re here,” Dr. Conversino told the group during his keynote address. “The main thing in the competition is and always will be to understand other cultures. Part of this is provided by your understanding of the language and the culture and the context. Your understanding, reinforced by your experiences as LEAP and FAO fellows, brings proficiency in language and culture, and brings nuance to the cyber topics covered over the next two weeks, which are now recognized as essential skills at the highest levels of the national security apparatus and of the federal government.
Speaking in their target language for much of the day, participants will evolve linguistically, culturally and professionally as military communicators in their language; deepen their knowledge and understanding of cybersecurity issues; explore how the United States and other cultures approach partnership/competition in cyberspace; and understand how language and culture shape other nations’ approaches to cybersecurity. Topics include strategic cyberculture, cybersecurity and computing, cybermyths, information warfare, cybereconomics, and cyberlaw.
The course is an active learning activity with participants using smaller working groups to prepare specialist projects for the final day of the event. Instructors use different learning tools, such as virtual learning environments and real-world scenarios, to prepare participants to think and talk about cyber issues in their target languages.
“We operate daily in our languages, but we don’t speak cyber as much in our target languages. So to comprehend, comprehend and articulate in your target language, you really need to understand the subject matter. Then you need a vocabulary to put the two together. This course is the fusion of all of these components and provided me with great insight,” said Russian LEAP Scholar and Space Force Senior Master Sgt. Sergey Aguryanov from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. “This Cyber LITE will help me advise my leadership, bridge the gaps between cyber intelligence and space operations, and create and implement advanced cyber policies.”
For 1st Lt. Sarah Melton, Chinese-Mandarin LEAP scholar, pilot from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, the experience was a step outside her comfort zone and she encourages other LEAP scholars to try in the future.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first applied,” Melton said. “I knew part of the course would be about China, but I didn’t expect to learn so much about Eastern Europe, its history, and how those roles affect today’s cyber politics. We get so much information that we can apply to our missions and daily lives that I fully intend to take home and share. Every day has been extremely helpful, which is why I want to encourage my fellow LEAP Fellows not to ignore an opportunity because you think it may not directly apply to your job. Every facet of the Air Force will touch on some level, so take the opportunity to learn something new.