The nightly TV quiz show “Jeopardy!” with the blue squares, the iconic jingle and Alex Trebek, played a prominent role in the life of U.S. Air Force Capt. Danyelle Long-Hyland. Her family would gather around the television to watch their favorite game show religiously. As a child, she would often think about being on the show so she could challenge her mind but solving problems and finding answers extended well beyond that and into both of her current careers.
In 2016, Long-Hyland was invited to go on an in-person audition for the show but military training kept her from attending. She auditioned again in 2017 but did not receive a callback. After one final try last July, Long-Hyland was selected as a “Jeopardy!” contestant.
“My husband and I flew out to L.A. the first week of December, right after Thanksgiving,” said Long-Hyland. “And it was a quick four days, fly out on a Monday and home on a Thursday. It was just kind of a whirlwind but it was a lot of fun.”
As a lifelong “Jeopardy!” fan, Long-Hyland said she always knew she had a strong desire to work towards an answer with just bits and pieces of information.
“It’s just been a long-term dream for me because we grew up watching it when I was a kid,” said Long-Hyland. “I’m full of useless information, as it turns out.”
From her jobs, it is evident that she is actually full of significant, impactful data. In her civilian life, Long-Hyland is a lab instructor and technician for the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases located at Ft. Detrick, in Frederick, Md.
She trains National Guard Civil Support Teams by familiarizing them with the biological identification equipment that they will use in the field. Her students learn how to use technical equipment to analyze samples and determine if they contain any biological agent that could pose a risk to people.
Such agents could be naturally occurring (as would be the case with an emerging infectious disease), or they could be used deliberately in an act of warfare or terrorism.
“USAMRIID is one of the premier biological detection and identification labs in the country,” said Long-Hyland.
Her training site is located on a farm-like piece of property near the main post because, as she explained, “our students are doing field identification so we want them to be in a setting that’s as close to field conditions as possible.”
According to Long-Hyland, the work they do at Ft. Detrick is important for our national defense and the public should know that in the worst-case scenario, the National Guard is always ready.
“There are quite a few people that would say our country doesn’t have a very robust biodefense system in place to detect any possible releases of biological agents,” said Long-Hyland. “But it’s good to know that there are people all over the country, these CSTS, ready to respond literally at a moment’s notice to anything that would happen on our home soil.”
In uniform, Capt. Long-Hyland serves with the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Cyberspace Operations Squadron as an intelligence officer. The 175th COS mobilizes to support a National Mission Team, which is a geographically aligned cyber team of operators and analysts that gather critical information to target the enemy, stated Long-Hyland.
“The information then has to be put together in a way that creates a story and leads our cyber workforce to conduct missions, which will help secure our networks from adversaries, or help us take the fight to the adversary,” said Long-Hyland.
On the outside, it may seem that there is little in common between the job she performs as a civilian and her career in the Maryland Air National Guard but Long-Hyland sees the connection.
“There is not one technology or technique that can give deployed medical laboratories a definitive answer on which bio agent could be infecting a population, or what agent may have been present in food or the environment,” said Long-Hyland. “Biological defense and cyber warfare are all about putting puzzles together, and I love puzzles.”
Collecting information to solve puzzles helped her make it on to Jeopardy, but according to Long-Hyland, finding the right answers at the right times helps protect both her civilian and military community as well.