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Civil Air Patrol Cyber Summer Camp More Popular Than Ever

Michael Madden receives instruction from one of the many Civilian Air Patrol's volunteers

A volunteer cyber security expert instructs a class of more than a dozen students clad in military fatigues. This is the Civil Air Patrol's cyber warrior advanced course, part of a larger camp offered to 60 students from across the country.

Students aged 14-20 learn about securing networks, detecting intruders, and about the Air Force's Cyber Command. The week-long camp shows them what cyber security careers are possible both out of the military and in.

"We have a schedule," says 18 year-old Michael Madden from South Carolina in response to a question about how their day goes.

"We have a very nasty schedule," 17 year-old Alex Bazemore adds. 

Alex Bazemore

They are cadet staff, meaning they wrangle their fellow cadets and assist with day-to-day camp logistics. It also means they got up at 4:45 a.m. 

19 year-old Sabrina Fuller of Virginia is another cadet staff member, and she says despite the early wake-up call and morning run, they all like it.

"It's a very: wake up, learn, learn, and go to sleep. And it's crazy and fun," Fuller says.

This is Madden's third year at the camp, and he says it had a profound impact.

"I made a complete career change. I want to go into cyber. I am a firm believer that this is the most vulnerable area of the United States' infrastructure," he says.

The genuine enthusiasm and dedication from students and volunteer staff show why the program has become the second most applied to program the Civil Air Patrol offers says Jacob Stauffer.

They will offer two more camps over the summer in Maryland and New Mexico. This year 180 students will finish, which will double the program's total number.

Stauffer started the program four years ago. He's a former Air Force civilian employee at Lackland's Network Warfare Unit. He says he started it in part over his concern about the lack of cyber talent.

"One of the things that I saw as an Air Force civilian is that we just didn't have enough individuals that were trained to do our mission," he says.

He thinks the big obstacle to getting people into the field is the perceived cost. A course for a single certification can cost over a thousand dollars. Students here paid $50. He thinks hooking them now on the profession will help fill the gap.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org