Maryland Airmen first to try artificial intelligence career assessment in DoD

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers
  • 175th Wing Public Affairs

Airmen of the Maryland Air National Guard became the first service members within the Department of Defense to test an artificial intelligence cognitive cyber assessment that helps determine whether they will likely be successful in the cyber operations career field.

During a recent drill weekend, approximately 25 members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, were put through a battery of assessments as part of the Cyber Decision Cognitive Assessment Readiness System, or CYDE CARS. The system, created for the Air National Guard in partnership with Amplio, is a commercial, off-the-shelf assessment that is used in the collegiate athletic world and is now being utilized by the DoD.

Determining the suitability of a potential team member is paramount when deciding where personnel are most likely to succeed and ensure mission accomplishment. Traditionally, leaders use one-on-one interviews, test scores, education level, and a resume to determine if an individual is a good fit for their team. Currently the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or ASVAB is the only objective measure and it was not created for the cyber-ops career field.

The 175th COG, stationed at Warfield Air National Guard Base at Martin State Airport in Middle River, Maryland, participated in the unique beta test using CYDE CARS. The technology is designed to give leaders a new set of information that will help them identify good candidates and build stronger teams that would better support across the full spectrum of cyber operations.

“The objective is to have the ability to assess individuals that come into the cyber operations domain and determine who has a higher propensity of making it through the cyber pipeline,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Wonpat, 175th Cyberspace Operations Group and CYDE CARS program officer. “We’re looking to reduce the attrition rate to get through cyber schooling and better identify those that will be successful. This capability will help commanders make informed decisions on who to send to training and when, thereby maximizing a shrinking pool of resources.”

The CYDE CARS testing battery measures individuals in 3 categories; operational, cognitive, and personality. Within those categories it measures 16 characteristics including focus under pressure, methodical thinking, attention to detail, decisions under ambiguity, and perseverance.

“In the end what we are really trying to measure is potential,” said Grant Gillary, chief technology officer at Amplio. “So we are looking to figure out what are the underlying traits that differentiates someone who is successful in this incredibly difficult pipeline, and then find people who have those traits so that we can select individuals who are most likely to be successful. Even if they’re ones who maybe don’t have exactly the right resume.”

According to U.S. Air Force Col. Reid Novotny, 175th COG commander, ensuring that they pick the right Airmen regardless of their background is of utmost importance.

“Having a computer science degree does not necessarily translate directly into successful offensive and defensive operators,” said Novotny. “We have many members who were former aircraft maintenance officers and enlisted who have blown these tests out of the water, went through training and did excellent and are doing great things on behalf of the country.”

The CYDE CARS beta test began within the 175th COG but could be used in the future to determine the best fit for Airmen in other high attrition-rate career fields called Air Force Specialty Codes.

“You can translate [CYDE CARS] into any AFSC, any [military job], or any type of recruiting that has high dropout rates,” said Novotny. “Let’s talk about A-10 pilots. If they wash out through their training, get the data behind it and model it.”

After the information received from the beta testing is analyzed and the testing is improved, the Maryland Air National Guard will receive the new and improved CYDE CARS assessments and can implement the test with all of the members in the 175th COG.

“We did the beta testing today. We will get the data and the company will make sense of the data,” said Wonpat. “They’ll improve the current analytic with the data derived from today.”

The data will help inform commanders, and other decision makers, on a prospective candidate’s level of problem solving and other traits required to excel in cyber operations. The CYDE CARS system can be scaled and shareable with other cyber units and other career fields. Once the analytic is created it can be used for other AFSCs relatively easily, said Wonpat.

“The bigger vision is to use the system to help recruiters and commanders understand the workforce so those entering a job can be provided more choices of careers that they will likely find more engaging,” said Wonpat. “And hopefully as a result, the candidate will find more job satisfaction and stay longer and contribute more.”