Screen shot of the virtual Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition which had Guardsmen working with college students. (Courtesy Photo)
Screen shot of the virtual Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition which had Guardsmen working with college students. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo Credit: Joseph Siemandel) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. -- As cyberattacks become more sophisticated and damaging, the Washington National Guard’s Information Technology and cyber professionals helped mentor new cyber professionals who participated in the annual Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

“We provided judges for the students that took part in the competition,” said Chief Warrant Officer Four Michael Olmsted, the Deputy for Information Management Chief for the Washington Army National Guard. “We also conducted injects that tested the students’ knowledge and abilities.”

The annual competition is organized by Highline Community College and tests student teams on their ability to assume administrative and protective duties for an existing “commercial” network – typically a small company with 50 or more users, 7 to ten servers, and common internet services such as a web server, mail server, and e-commerce site. Each team begins the competition with an identical set of hardware and software and is scored on their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, maintain availability of existing services such as mail servers and web servers, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balance security needs against business needs. As the competition goes on, the scenarios and injects change based on what the students do.

“We have participated in this event every year,” said Olmsted. “It is a great opportunity to meet college students and represent the Guard’s Information Technology profession.”

The ability to share knowledge and skills is critical for both the students and the Guardsmen that participate.

“Dr. Amelia Phillips, the program lead for cybersecurity and forensics, CIS/Computer Science Department invites us to take part, and besides us sharing our education and experience with the students, we learn about the programs and some new techniques that maybe our team wasn’t familiar with prior to taking part,” said Olmsted.

The Washington National Guard’s cyber program is nationally recognized by many for the work done with the Secretary of State’s office in regards to election security and the infrastructure vulnerability assessments done with various utility companies across the state. This has led to an uptick in the number of individuals looking to convert to the information technology field.

“We have seen an increase in overall interest in the IT field. We have more soldiers coming to the 25 series and have seen many move from enlisted to warrant office because they want to make this a long term career,” said Olmsted. “It is good to see that this program is thriving and more opportunities are out there.”

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