Citizen Airman, Cyber Warrior
By Maj. Alysia R. Harvey, 960th Cyberspace Operations Group Public Affairs
/ Published September 25, 2015
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
As a civilian, he protects the computers that run the Texas power grid. As a military member, he protects the computers that run the Air Force. As a Citizen Airman, he's proud to serve his country.
In the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Senior Master Sgt. Michael Weeks serves as the superintendent of Standards and Evaluations for the 854th Combat Operations Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. In his civilian profession, he is a Cyber Security Engineer-Analyst at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls the Texas portion of the U.S. Power Grid.
"My job is to protect computers from bad guys," the Round Rock, Texas, native explained. "At ERCOT, I protect the computers that run the Texas power grid, and for the Air Force, I protect the computers that run the U.S. Air Force."
Breaking it down into layman's terms, he went on to explain that, on the military side, he ensures that Air Force cyber operations controllers are able to execute their mission of engaging, defending, and operating the Air Force portion of the Department of Defense Information Networks. He says being a cyber-analyst and engineer in his civilian profession helps immensely with the defense-focused operations of his military occupation.
"At ERCOT, my job is very technical," he said. "I look at the individual computers and network connections for bad guys, and then respond. I work diligently to ensure the network is protected from future attacks."
As a Citizen Airman, he does the same thing, but on a larger scale.
"In the Air Force, my job is to coordinate between the organizations that run the computers and the guys that look for bad guys," Weeks said. "Due to the size of the Air Force, there are a lot of disparate organizations that do different things for the Air Force computers and networks. It's my job to ensure the proper orders are communicated to prevent bad guys from getting into our systems."
In his civilian profession, he says he has deployed multiple very complicated systems to better protect the network and enjoys actually seeing the results at ERCOT. According to Weeks, his position at ERCOT is a much different environment, mostly because it's a much smaller scale and he is able to directly affect the organization much more significantly. However, with more than 15 years of service under his belt, he's very proud to be a senior master sergeant in the Air Force Reserve.
"Being involved in cyber at this time and space in our nation's history is pretty exciting, and the capabilities in and through cyberspace are very impressive," Weeks said. "In fact, if you think back to the effect that airpower had in World War II, there are a lot of parallels in the domain of cyberspace. With the ability to communicate globally and instantaneously, to track and monitor hundreds of operations simultaneously, as well as the automation that cyber has had, you can see that the U.S.'s defense capability has exponentially increased. Just as it was in World War II that the country that controlled the skies won, now the nation that can control the cyber domain will win...hands down."
Staff Sgt. Greg Rivas, a cyber transport technician assigned to the 860th Network Warfare Flight and a former co-worker of Weeks agrees that cyber is an exciting place to work and that it has far-reaching impacts in the defense of the Nation.
"Cyber defense is the newest force multiplier," Rivas said. "It is an extremely effective way for a nation state to quickly gather intelligence and affect enemy readiness. It allows us to project power in a covert, safe, and relatively cost-effective manner when compared to other military solutions."
He recalls Weeks being the "go-to guy" in their previous unit for cyber security matters and had this to say about him.
"Sergeant Weeks really has a job that many in the cyber defense career field strive for," Rivas said. "He can speak in-depth about a wide variety of digital tools quite intelligently, and he uses that knowledge of them to great effect in the military."
No matter which proverbial hat he's wearing, it's his love of the job that makes his work so gratifying.
"I enjoy the puzzle - being presented with a problem or issue that could take years or minutes to fix is fascinating," Weeks said. "Sometimes it's as easy as blocking an [Internet Protocol] address or domain, but sometimes - actually most of the time - the issue is something that a lot of people can't figure out. When you can figure out the issue that involves people, processes, and technology, and they all come together, it is very satisfying!"