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AFCYBER celebrates two years, looks to future growth
Brig. Gen. Paul Ayers, Air National Guard assitant to the commander, 24th Air Force, prepares to hand out cake after he and the most junior command member present at the ceremony, Senior Airman Joshua Deporto (not pictured), cut the cakes in honor of the 24th Air Force second anniversary, Aug. 18. Personnel gathered to commemorate the accomplishments of the past two years, and to look ahead to growth in the areas of capability, capacity and collaboration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christine D. Millette)
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AFCYBER marks second anniversary with focus on way ahead

Posted 8/18/2011   Updated 8/23/2011 Email story   Print story


by Christine D. Millette
24th Air Force Public Affairs

8/18/2011 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Twenty-Fourth Air Force celebrated two years of operation with a personnel call and celebration to honor the successes of the past two years Aug. 18, but also looked to the future as the command works to stabilize and baseline its units and operations.

"The people of 24th Air Force have accomplished great things in the past two years," said Maj. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, 24th Air Force commander. "Our Total Force Airmen, that's active duty, Reserve, Air National Guard, our in-residence international partners, our government civilians, and contractors, are all contributing unique capabilities to complete the full cyberspace mission. I'm very proud to be part of this hard-working organization, as we take our successes and lessons learned from the last two years and use them to catapult our way ahead, improving ourselves by balancing our mission operations with maturing staff processes."

The numbered air force, which serves as the Air Force component to U.S. Cyber Command, was stood-up on Aug. 18, 2009, here at Lackland, and is scheduled to move into its permanent home at Port San Antonio in early 2012. The permanent home of the NAF will provide essential partnering opportunities with the elements of "Cyber City USA," a moniker used by San Antonio due to the preponderance of information and cyber security industry, academic programs, and government organizations residing within the city limits.

"The bed down of 24th Air Force headquarters here has raised San Antonio's profile as a national center of excellence in cyber security," said Bill Mock, Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President. "The NAF has been a magnet for attracting new private sector cyber related businesses to San Antonio."

The command and its subordinate wings work regularly with industry to stimulate innovation in cyberspace technology. Building upon this collaboration is one of the priorities of the NAF.

"We are constantly working with our industry partners in the cyber security business," Vautrinot said, "but we are also taking advantage of other Air Force and government agencies in this area to further each others' missions. Joint Base San Antonio, the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are just a few of the partners we have right here at Lackland."

Partnering in academia is another essential growth area for 24th Air Force.

"We are encouraging robust development of cyberspace education," said the general. "We do work with local schools like the University of Texas San Antonio and St. Mary's University, and our distance learning unit, the 229th Information Operations Squadron, is actually located on the campus of Norwich University in Vermont. We highly encourage our people to take part in programs such as CyberPatriot, to spread their obvious enthusiasm for what they do to the next generation."

"The cyber professionals of 24th Air Force and its wings served as coaches and mentors for several area CyberPatriot teams last year," Mock said. "It was the 24th Air Force's commitment to the youth of our community that enabled our Information Technology and Security Academy (ITSA) team win the area CyberPatriot competition and to take third place in the national finals."

The members of that winning team not only will go on to compete again next year, but in the mean time are working summer internships with the 33rd Network Warfare Squadron at Lackland to get real world experience.

"We want to continue this trend - it is truly amazing what these kids have already achieved, and we want push them to the next level," Vautrinot said.

The command is also pushing to get to its next level.

"We are working to find cyberspace best practices across the government, working with the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency, both here and up at Fort Meade," said the commander. "We are also striving to share better with our international partners. We currently have a team member from the United Kingdom, and we hope to bring in more from our other partner nations."

As the command normalizes its processes, it is working to improve upon the foundation that has been built in the past two years.

"We need to build capacity," Vautrinot said. "As the Air Force recruits and trains cyberspace operators, it is essential that we plug these talented individuals into the cyberspace units at the right place and right level, to utilize that talent and grow that leader to be able to shape the Air Force use of cyberspace operations in the future.

"We also need to grow our capabilities," she continued. "Right now we have and are using these cool silver bullets - niche capabilities - that are used for a particular situation, to address a particular problem, by a particular operator. As we move ahead, we are working to scale these types of capabilities to enterprise level, so that they become additional tools in the cyberspace tool belt used by our combatant commanders and Air Force operators."

The numbered air force is responsible for conducting operations performed by three operational cyberspace wings and the 624th Operations Center. The 67th Network Warfare Wing, also headquartered at Lackland, is the implementation element of Air Force network operations, and provides network warfare capabilities to Air Force, Joint Task Force, and combatant commanders. The Lackland-headquartered 688th Information Operations Wing, redesignated from the Air Force Information Operations Center in 2009, delivers information operations and engineering infrastructure capabilities integrated across air, space and cyberspace. The 689th Combat Communications Wing, headquartered at Robins AFB, Ga., delivers expeditionary communications for joint and coalition warfighters, supporting combat operations and humanitarian relief operations.

"It's the privilege of all 24th Air Force members to provide to the joint operations community cyberspace operators, capabilities, and infrastructure that enables the Department of Defense to carry out its assigned missions," Vautrinot said. "We will continue to cultivate our relationships with partner entities and increase our contributions to the community through capability, capacity and collaboration.

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