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Cybersecurity internship pilot program promotes innovation

15 August 2016

From MC2 Tamara Vaughn, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

U.S. Pacific Fleet has launched a pilot program that provides opportunities for junior officers and enlisted Sailors in the ever changing field of cybersecurity technology.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Just by looking at where we are today, we can already see how powerful technology has been in shaping our world. Through the years, scientists have developed cutting-edge technologies intended to make life a lot more convenient with advancements happening so fast, especially in the 21st century that our current way of life always seems out of date as soon as the newest app or gadget comes out. The introduction of new-fangled technology, especially in the fields of cyber information and security, has radically altered the world in so many ways, creating new opportunities and challenges along the way.

U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) is working to keeping up with the demands of an ever changing world with the kickoff of a new pilot internship program. In partnership with the “The Bridge” program, launched back in February 2016, and the MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator at the National Defense University, the pilot program provides opportunities for junior officers and enlisted Sailors in the ever changing field of cybersecurity technology.

“This is just one project of many programs that ‘The Bridge' has fostered with its core concept of turning all 140,000 Sailors in PACFLT into innovators, replacing innovation cells with a bridge from the deckplates to innovation opportunities,” said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.

A team of four Sailors led by Lt. j.g. John Vincent Deniega, attached to Navy Information Operations Command, Hawaii, were the first selected for this pilot program, which offers a unique combination of academic mentoring and valuable real-world experience working with leading experts in the field. The four Sailors compete against college level interns in co-educational competitions using the latest research, technology and developments by applying them strategically and tactically in real-world scenarios against cyber-attacks.

“I am not sure if I was just lucky enough to have three proactive and brilliant Sailors on my team,” said Deniega. “They demonstrated they were ready to exceed expectations from day one. My job as team lead was simple: Ensure my team had what they needed in order to own their tasks, keep eyes down the calendar, and unify the technology with a deliverable business strategy.”

The Navy team has won six out of six competitions, demonstrating to the other interns, industries, and the local college directors who have visited as judges, that the Navy is a key player in the cyber security field. According to Deniega a few interns have actually started asking questions about how to join the Navy ranks either in the military or civil service side.

“Although we are mostly the same age as these college students we are competing against, we are all slightly older and the levels of work ethic and determination vary drastically,” said team member Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 2nd Class Tyler Fulkerson, attached to Navy Information Operations Command, Hawaii. “Being in the Navy, we have been working full time on top of taking college classes and developing skills relevant to our rate. So when a task is assigned or a goal needs to be met we have no issue hitting target simply because we are all experienced in this fast paced and demanding environment. We come out on top by appropriately assigning roles and jobs due to strengths in skills and that really fast tracks our work here.”

The Navy’s team continues to lead the charge. They’ve developed potentially viable products that have captured the attention of industry, academia, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“The work our internship project is doing and the milestones they are achieving surpass my expectations,” said Swift.

As an added benefit of the internship effort, this pilot program succeeded in showing industry professionals and college students that Sailors can set the pace. The team is expected to participate in a final “show” to present their inventions and innovations in front of a panel of investors on Aug. 17.

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