TALLINN, Estonia--The annual International Conference on Cyber Conflict, hosted by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, addresses the most relevant issues concerning the cyber defense community.

Around 600 decision-makers, opinion-leaders, law and technology experts from the governments, military, academia and industry of nearly 50 countries met at CyCon in Estonia to address current cyber security challenges in an interdisciplinary manner.

"Attending CyCon gives cadets a unique opportunity to understand the challenges of cyberspace on the periphery with our NATO partners and allies," Maj. Erik Korn, Army Cyber Institute cyber policy researcher, said.

This year, six U.S. Military Academy cadets from five different academic departments joined a cyber-focused Advanced Individual Academic Development, sponsored by the Law Department and the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, and traveled to Estonia for CyCon. The AIAD will continue to Poland and Germany for cyber-related activities and cultural experiences after CyCon.

"We see cadets understand the implications of cyber due to its multidisciplinary nature," Korn said during the conference. "It is extremely important across the different academic disciplines that we understand how far reaching cyberspace is."

Class of 2020 Cadet Matthew McCarriston is a civil engineering major and involved in the Cyber Policy Team, which won the international Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge in Switzerland earlier this year. He wanted to further his education within the cyber domain and saw this chance as a way to expand his cyber knowledge.

"Cyber relates to civil engineering by the actual application to critical infrastructure inside the U.S. and outside," McCarriston said. "On this trip, I wanted to learn more about Estonian culture and also how Europe protects itself from cyberattacks."

USMA's AIAD program is a key portion of the institution's margin of excellence concept. Cadets spend about three weeks during their summer academic break conducting academically enriching studies and cultural immersions.

These unique experiences broaden cadets' perspectives and provide them with practical advanced education related to their field of study and real-world application of cyber in the military.
Class of 2022 Cadet Chloe Tran believes that cyber directly impacts her major, Defense and Strategic Studies, "because the world is becoming more connected through electronics and the media."

When asked why she thought this AIAD was important, Tran explained, "I wanted to be able to talk with some of the greatest leaders in the world right now in the cyber field, and I saw it as a great opportunity."