Local congressmen tout area’s growing cyber presence

Are you a critical thinker? Do you excel at teaching yourself skills?

 

Uncle Sam wants you.

Local congressmen convened a panel discussion Thursday with senior members of Fort Gordon’s growing cyber mission to share with Augusta-area educators and government officials the job and learning opportunities that will emerge as the Army post grows.

U.S. Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Rick Allen, R-Ga., held the forum at the North Augusta Municipal Building.

As the post prepares to become the new home to U.S. Army Cyber Command by 2020, an estimated 4,000 soldiers and their families are expected to boost the area’s population.

“Our goal today as we come together as a community is to establish an educational path to help fill those positions in the new headquarters at Fort Gordon,” Wilson said. “With that goal in sight, we hope to make this event an annual one that grows and brings us up to date on what the Cyber Command will mean to all of us. It provides opportunities for the future.”

Said Allen: “Obviously, education is going to be so important to what we can actually do economically with what’s been handed to us here.”

Brig. Gen. Joseph McGee is the U.S. Cyber Command’s deputy commander for operations. In a matter of months, he said, the post “is going to be the absolute center of gravity for all things cyber-related in the U.S. Army.”

He rattled off several specific job titles for careers that will be in high demand – including data analysts, software programmers, electrical engineers, hardware developers, network engineers and big-data architects.

But in a field that changes so rapidly, McGee said, “there’s an underlying foundational skill set – the ability to be autodidactic, someone with the ability to train himself or herself.”

Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey is the newly appointed commandant of the Cyber School for the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon. He said the many tech-related skills that area K-12 pupils should learn can be boiled down to one important: overarching skill.

“If you consolidate all those together, really it’s the ability to critically think, and to realize that it’s not necessarily about learning a technology, but understanding theory and interrelations rather than the specific technology you’re working with,” Hersey said. “As we’ve seen, that changes very, very rapidly. How to process different things is going to be a very important capability to have.”

Also, it’s important to generate excitement early and often among pupils about becoming involved in cyber career fields, according to Col. Sam Anderson, the chief of staff at the Cyber Center of Excellence.

He offered his daughter as an example. She just started eighth grade and is taking Spanish.

“Maybe someday soon in the ninth grade she’ll have the opportunity to take either Spanish or Linux or Python,” Anderson said. “That’s the type of mindset we need to start thinking about to operate in this space – starting early, creating that innovative spirit in our young population, with a desire to want to be in this community.”

Todd Boudreau, the deputy commandant of the U.S. Army Cyber School, pointed out how keeping workers apace with change has long placed the U.S. on top of the world as a leader.

“What has kept us there is a very well-educated, innovative and adaptive workforce. Let’s not lose that,” Boudreau said. “The collective power in this room to shape our future should not be underestimated.”

Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or joe.hotchkiss@augustachronicle.com.

 

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