Ohio Air National Guardsmen Tip of the Cyber Spear
By Story by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood, 179th Airlift Wing
/ Published February 09, 2017
Columbus, Ohio -- Two airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing Communications Flight, Mansfield, Ohio, were recently selected as nominees for the Air Force Outstanding Cyber Operations categories of the 2016 Air Force Information Dominance Awards for Excellence in Warfighting Integration. Staff Sergeant Adam Olsen was nominated for the Air Force Outstanding Cyber Operations Noncommissioned Officer category and Senior Airman Arsenio Hernandez for the Airman category. For the second year in a row, the 179th Airlift Wing Communications Flight has produced a winner at the national level.
Senior Airman Arsenio Hernandez was announced as the Air Force Outstanding Cyber Operations Airman of the year. Last year, Staff Sergeant Taylor Keltz was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Cyber Systems Noncommissioned Officer of the year.
These Air Force-level awards recognize Air Force officers, enlisted, federal civilian employees, teams, and units for sustained superior performance while providing information dominance and cyberspace support to Air Force or the Department of Defense missions and operations.
Brigadier General Kirk S. Pierce, United States Air Force Director of Operations said, “The exceptional accomplishment of our Airmen emphasize the unrelenting distinction the Air National Guard exhibits in handling cyberspace operations and supporting missions. Congratulations to all for a remarkable job!”
Senior Airman Hernandez joined the unit in December of 2012 and has thrived in the career field over the past four years, when questioned, he stated he didn’t always envision himself in the military or working on computers as a career.
He was born and raised in Mexico, until the age of 16, when he moved to Ohio to live with his mother. He later attained his citizenship and was working at Home Depot with a member of the 179th Airlift Wing who convinced him he should look into joining the Ohio Air National Guard.
Senior Airman Hernandez speaks both Spanish and English fluently, and his diverse background is of great benefit to the Air National Guard. For example, during a recent “Pilot for a Day” event, he was instrumental in serving as a translator for a visiting family from Uruguay. English may be his second language, but computer coding has become a third form of communication in which Hernandez has become increasingly fluent in.
Senior Master Sergeant Michael Dumas, 179th AW Communications Flight Plans and Policies Superintendent, is very proud of the recent success of his team. Dumas said, “Hernandez has a phenomenal attitude and work ethic. It’s a very fast paced career field. We don’t compartmentalize our airmen by their Air Force Specialty Code. We need to do more with less. We could use twice the staff, however, to compensate we are asking a lot more out of these Airmen. Senior Airman Hernandez is an incredibly versatile and skilled member of our team. I am very happy to see him get the recognition.”
Senior Airman Hernandez said he felt honored to be selected for this award, but wanted to point out the people around him that have made his success possible.
Senior Airman Hernandez said “It’s very nice to be recognized, but I have mixed feelings, because this is not just my achievement. I felt shocked when they said that I was the winner. I felt as though my whole team should be recognized. All these things are a product of our teamwork. Not just one person can do this job efficiently by themselves.”
Staff Sergeant Olsen, who was nominated for the Noncommissioned Officer category of Cyber Operations, said that he was happy to see Hernandez recognized. “We definitely work together on everything, our team is tasked to patch systems daily in order to update software and maintain a secure network. The challenge is to monitor a large network of computers and meeting the deadlines requires each of us to do our part.” Sergeant Olsen explained that every organization in the Air National Guard aims to keeps their network of machines updated and patched. Sergeant Olsen tracked down the mathematical equation being used to measure the organizations efficiency. “They call it a ‘Magic Number’ and once we identified the areas we could improve on we just set goals and used a coordinated effort to attack them daily.”
Senior Master Sergeant Dumas said, “This team has done an incredible job identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities using limited resources. They often do so ahead of an enterprise solutions. These guys work together daily to improve their ‘Magic Number’ to lead our team to the top 5 of the national rankings”
Sir Arthur C. Clarke had a philosophy, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
To most of us working outside of the cyber world, the work they do is magic. Very important magic. They protect our nation from adversaries that attack us on a daily basis. We may not see the battle in the same way as the physical front lines of a ground war, but lives are very much on the line. The cyber battlefield never sleeps and we’re lucky to have the talented airmen of the Air National Guard fighting on our side.
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