REDSTONE ARESENAL, Ala. – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command hosted a charter signing ceremony Oct. 20, bringing to life the SMDC Underserved Community Cybersecurity and Engineering Education Development, or SUCCEED, program, which will expand opportunities for students attending Alabama high schools and colleges.
Terance Carlson, USASMDC’s command chief cyber strategist, said the purpose of the program is to promote interest of students attending historically black colleges and universities, and underserved high schools in cybersecurity and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers, as well as give those students hands-on experience working in those fields.
“A student can have an interest in these fields, but if they don’t have the opportunities to experience working in those careers, then that does no good,” Carlson said. “We need to create those opportunities for students that provide the experience they’ll need when they graduate.”
Though USASMDC has established intern programs, Carlson wanted a program to bring more cyber-minded people into the organization to improve the cyber culture.
“When I was brought in to head up the cybersecurity strategy office, one of my tasks was to grow and improve the cyber culture within SMDC,” Carlson said. “One of the best ways to do that is to start with the people who are coming in with that mindset already.”
The organizations initially participating in the SUCCEED program are Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University, Alabama State University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the Alabama School for Cyber Technology and Engineering, BDPA, and the LeBlanc foundation.
“We were already working with universities individually, but we wanted to expand across the state and get more of the schools,” Carlson said. “We decided to put together a program to help increase the diversity within the STEM community and create this board where everybody is concentrating on what is the best for the students.”
Two types of college internships will be available through the STEM program, one working at the USASMDC headquarters at Redstone Arsenal, and the other completing research.
“Some interns will be working in the building with us, in various offices that have cybersecurity or engineering projects,” Carlson said. “The other interns will do research at their schools using their labs. Their research projects will be tailored directly to benefit SMDC or the Army as a whole.”
Alabama high school students will also have an opportunity to get hands-on experience in the cyber world through USASMDC’s partnership with the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
“The high school intern program will be more focused on going to UAH, where they will be put through a number of training modules to obtain cybersecurity certifications,” Carlson said. “They’ll also learn the importance of a security clearance and tools to manage their social media profiles that will help them gain and keep a security clearance in the future.”
Carlson hopes that after students complete an internship with the SUCCEED program, they will choose to work full time at USASMDC or another Redstone Arsenal organization.
“After their internships, the students will have valuable experience on their resumes they can use after they graduate,” Carlson said. “With that experience, they’ll have opportunities not only to come into SMDC full time but anywhere on the arsenal. There are other Army organizations, NASA, or even the FBI, who could all certainly use cybersecurity people. We also have plenty of industry partners who need trained cybersecurity professionals.”