CyberPatriot is a program launched by the Air Force Association (AFA) that encourages the pursuit of careers in cybersecurity and STEM by giving hands-on experience with cybersecurity concepts. This year is Season XIV of the CyberPatriot program. The ORHS NJROTC CyberPatriot team, led by Cadet Ensign Robo, participates in the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition each year. This competition puts teams in the position of newly hired IT professionals and their task is to secure simulated systems (called images) including Windows 10, Windows Server 2019, Ubuntu for the Linux system, and Cisco networks. While they are securing these systems, they must also be careful to not disrupt critical services.

This year in Tennessee, there were 82 participating teams, 58 of those being high school teams, in the CyberPatriot competitions. The results of Round 1 and 2 determine the tier (difficulty) a team will compete on for the State Round. There are 3 tiers: Silver (lowest tier), Gold (middle/second highest tier), and Platinum (highest tier).

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Due to the number of cadets showing up at practices, Cadet Ensign Robo was able to put together 2 teams (max of 6 each). Team Alpha’s scores got the team Platinum placement and Team Bravo got Gold placement. Out of the 58 high school teams in TN, there were only 6 who made Platinum. The State Round then determines advancement. Only Platinum teams have a chance at the Semifinals and to continue to Nationals.

After the AFA finished scoring, Team Alpha placed second in the Platinum All Service Division! The team would have to have made first place to advance to Semifinals, however, Cadet Ensign Robo is still extremely proud of the teams. This is the highest scoring they have ever had as they got Platinum for the first time. More impressively, they did this without all the official given training materials due to miscommunications. They also accomplished this while half the team was exhausted from jet lag due to the unit’s return from the Hawai’i Pearl Harbor trip the previous morning as well as marching in the Oak Ridge Christmas Parade the night before. The raw score had the team in second place but after the images were evaluated, the team was bumped to second place. Now, with the training materials and opportunities they have at hand Cadet Ensign Robo believes with no doubt they can make Nationals next year with the hard work of the unit’s cadets.

On Team Alpha was Cadet Ensign Gracia Robo, Cadet Master Chief Petty Officer Terrance Ladd, Cadet Petty Officer 3rd Class Audrie Rouse, Cadet Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathaniel Peters, and Cadet Seaman Sean Carroll. Cadet MCPO Ladd took on primarily Windows Server 2019 and was great at helping his teammates. Cadet PO3 Rouse worked with Cadet Ensign Robo on Windows 10 and Rouse has come very far in her investigative skills. Cadet PO2 Peters worked on Linux and has continuously learned more about cybersecurity with excitement. Cadet Seaman Carroll took on Cisco and gained the team many points on the hardest part of the competition in his effort to learn networking.

On Team Bravo was Cadet Master Chief Petty Officer Serenity Denisevich, Cadet Chief Petty Officer Madison Stephens, Cadet Seaman Jacob Shifflet, and Cadet Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Thenthirath. Cadet MCPO Denisevich primarily worked on Linux earning the team significant points in competitions but unfortunately was ill the day of State Round. Cadet CPO Stephens worked on Windows Server 2019 and learned securing this server impressively quick with her research skills. Cadet Seaman Shifflet worked on Windows 10 but also tried his hand at all systems with notable determination. Cadet PO2 Thenthirath tried his hand at both Windows Server 2019 and Linux, he also came to all competitions although being overwhelmed with the many NJROTC activities he already takes on.

Photos and article contributed by Gracia Robo