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Reservists among team to advance to Atlantic Council Cyber semifinals

'Team Fightin' Electrons' won first place and also received the Military Cyberspace Professional Association 'Order of the Thor' medal at the Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge held in Washington, D.C., March 11-12. Pictured are Maj. Marcus Laird, Selina Carr-McEwen, Dr. James Miller, competition judge and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Maj. Ryan Hilton and Maj. Benton Enomoto. (Courtesy photo)

'Team Fightin' Electrons' won first place and also received the Military Cyberspace Professional Association 'Order of the Thor' medal at the Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge held in Washington, D.C., March 11-12. Pictured are Maj. Marcus Laird, Selina Carr-McEwen, Dr. James Miller, competition judge and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Maj. Ryan Hilton and Maj. Benton Enomoto. (Courtesy photo)

A team of Air Command and Staff College students that included two Air Force reservists participate in the semifinal round of the Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge competition in Geneva, Switzerland. (Courtesy photo)

A team of Air Command and Staff College students that included two Air Force reservists participate in the semifinal round of the Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge competition in Geneva, Switzerland. (Courtesy photo)

Members of the "Cyber Jedi" team are (left to right) Maj. Zachary Smith; Army Maj. Spencer Calder; Maj. Jose Rivas, the only Air Force reservist on the team; and Maj. Sam Kidd. The team also represented the Air Command and Staff College in the Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge in Geneva, Switzerland. (Courtesy photo)

Members of the "Cyber Jedi" team are (left to right) Maj. Zachary Smith; Army Maj. Spencer Calder; Maj. Jose Rivas, the only Air Force reservist on the team; and Maj. Sam Kidd. The team also represented the Air Command and Staff College in the Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge in Geneva, Switzerland. (Courtesy photo)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- A team of Air Command and Staff College students that included two Air Force reservists advanced to the semifinal round of the Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge competition in Geneva, Switzerland.

Reservists Maj. Marcus Laird and Maj. Benton Enomoto, together with teammates Maj. Ryan Hilton and Selina Carr-McEwen, qualified for the European competition, which took place April 7-8, by beating out 39 other teams to win the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge in Washington, D.C., March 11-12. In addition to making it to the semifinals, "Team Fightin' Electrons" was recognized for making the best oral presentation at the competition.

According to the Atlantic Council website, the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is a one-of-a-kind competition designed to provide students across academic disciplines with a deeper understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber crisis and conflict. Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise, it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving cyberattack and analyze the threat it poses to national, international and private-sector interests.

A second Air Command and Staff College team, "Cyber Jedi," also participated in the Geneva competition. Team members were Maj. Zachary Smith, Maj. Jose Rivas, Maj. Sam Kidd and Army Maj. Spencer Calder. Rivas is also a member of the Air Force Reserve.

Prior to arriving in Geneva, all teams received a simulated intelligence report outlining a major cyber incident affecting European nations. Team members all assumed the role of experienced cyber policy experts, who were invited to brief a task force of European leaders called to address an evolving cyber crisis. They had to submit a written report that formed the basis of the oral presentation they had to make in Geneva. The scenario continued to evolve as the teams advanced in the competition.

Dr. Pano Yannakogeorgos, dean of Air University's Air Force Cyber College, said the two teams' performance in the Washington cyber challenge and advancement to the competition in Geneva validate the college's programs. Yannakogeorgos and Col. Ronald Banks, Air War College vice commandant and Cyber College faculty member, coached the Air University teams.

In a speech given during the Armed Forces Communications and Electronic Association TechNet Air symposium March 22-24 in San Antonio, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James recognized efforts underway at the Cyber College.

"The Cyber College leverages cyber technology to meet national security strategies in the next decade," she said. "The benefit of this college is active-duty and reserve forces, sister services and international partners can now study together and innovate solutions to cyberspace challenges that face our nation."

In Washington, the Air University students competed against civilian and military teams from across the country, to include teams from Brown University, Harvard University, U.S. Naval Academy, Columbia University and National Defense University.

"The event was awe inspiring," said Laird, team captain for the Fightin' Electrons, which, in addition to winning the overall competition, also won the Military Cyberspace Professional Association Order of the Thor medal for best military team. "The caliber of the event is self-evident when you look at the judges that had been assembled, including former Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. [Norton] Schwartz."

The senior-level judges represented various cybersecurity sectors in government, finance, the press and telecom.

"The cyber policy challenge was an incredible opportunity that allowed me to gain insight into the complexity of cyber issues from the technical experts on my team and other technical experts in attendance," Hilton said. "The tremendous experience will make all of us more well-rounded Airmen who are better able to serve the needs of the United States Air Force and the needs of our great nation."

Enomoto attributed his team’s performance to the diversity of student knowledge and backgrounds and the quality of instruction in the ACSC and Air War College combined electives course Cyber Horizons.

"Cyber Horizons produced real learning of both the challenges associated with military cyberspace security and for the nation at large," he said. "The outstanding faculty and guest speakers expanded our ideas and ways we thought about cyberspace. … The policies we presented at the competition were a direct result of the learning that occurred in Cyber Horizons."

(Some information for this article was taken from a story written by Phil Berube of the 42nd Air Base Wing public affairs office at Maxwell AFB.)