BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – The 15 officers have spent the last six months undergoing intense training at Keesler Air Force Base. They are now charged with defending our nation on a high-tech battleground.
"So there's no surprise that this is a new war fighting domain that we need to have a serious focus on. Bad guys know what's important to us. So we have to better organize, train or equip to do that," said Brig. Gen. David Cotton, Director of Cyberspace Operations.
The graduates were the first to receive the Cyber Badge and certificate from Keesler's Undergraduate Cyberspace Training Program. Being the first class also comes with opportunity and responsibility.
"This is a historic day, but many will follow you," said Cotton. "You got to be our sensors out there for us to develop those that are behind you coming up and also to make sure that we always have the advantage and we're one step ahead."
Their mission includes patrolling against computer network threats and potential terrorist attacks. Former Keesler commander Brigadier General Ian Dickinson helped launch the class in June.
"Oh, it was wonderful to see something that you started off, worked hard with your team to try and bring about. To see it come to fruition is a really great opportunity," said Dickinson.
Dickinson stressed the importance of such a program, especially in light of WikiLeaks.
"The WikiLeaks has been an example where people have tried to work counter to us and expose information that we would protect," said Dickinson. "So we're working already as the predecessors to these graduates, controlling our networks, limiting privileges to the right information out of our networks and we'll continue to do that."
And the new 15 Cyber warriors will be on the front lines in cyberspace.
"It's great to be done with it first off, but more importantly, I'm really excited to be able to use the skills that we learned here to go and protect the Air Force networks," said graduate James Sterling. "It feels like an end to what feels like a long journey, but I'm starting another one today."
One graduate will be staying at Keesler and another officer will be heading to Korea. The rest of the graduates are assigned to bases all over the country.
Several graduates were also honored with the Distinguished Award, Sadler Award and Top Graduate Award.