Maryland Guardsmen Selected To Be the First Air National Guard Cyber Instructor/Student at the Air Force Cyber Warfare Operations Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis AFB

  • Published
  • By Capt. Joseph Winter
  • 175th Wing Public Affairs
Newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Matthew Weiner entered the U.S. Air Force in 1996, over 15 years ago, as an Airman Basic at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas as a member of the Active Duty component. In 2007 he transitioned to the Maryland Air National Guard's, 175th Network Warfare Squadron in Baltimore, Maryland. The 175th Network Warfare Squadron has a very diverse mission set, and his previous expertise as well as roles within the government helped him during the competitive selection process to join this unit.

Soon after his appointment to the unit, Weiner supported the 175th Network Warfare Squadron in various roles including an active duty tour in 2008 supporting the Joint Forces Component Command- Network Warfare, now U.S. Cyber Command, and was promoted to the rank of Master Sgt.

Recognizing his desire to continue to serve in new and unique ways, in 2009, Weiner was selected to attend the last commissioning class held at the Academy of Military Science McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard in Tennessee. Upon receiving his commission as a 2nd Lt., Weiner served in the Active Guard Reserve program supporting many responsibilities and attending workshops related to computer technologies, integrating cyber weapons and tactics into cyber operations and cyber exercise support.

In 2011, Weiner was nominated by his command to apply for the coveted Air National Guard Cyber Weapons Instructor position within the newly formed Cyber Weapons School at Nellis AFB, NV, part of the existing Weapons Instructor School. Weiner was selected for the very first class after a rigorous application process. In April 2011, he officially made his move to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada for a three year tour. Upon completion of the tour, Weiner will return to the Maryland ANG as a fully qualified Weapons Instructor having created much of the cyber course and taught Cyber Weapons and Tactics at the graduate level for almost three years.

The Cyber Warfare Operations, Weapons Instructor Course is a five and a half month intense graduate level in-resident course that develops weapons and tactics officers. Now that the school has a cyber portion of the course, cyber will likely get more attention than ever. All Weapons School graduates become qualified to apply joint kinetic and non-kinetic weapon capabilities in wartime. Though all graduates will not be experts in cyberspace like Lieutenant Wiener, all will understand the application of force in cyberspace.

The school seeks to build weapons officers who are "instructors of instructors", combat employment experts, and proven leaders. The objectives are to graduate instructors who are expert communicators and leaders in weapons and tactics. Furthermore, the course provides the tools to ensure the graduates are experts for their commanders who seek to solve problems which will result in elevating the unit's combat capability. The weapons school graduates also serve as advisors on current tactics as leaders who are versed in integrating warfighting capabilities not just cyber.

The course material includes advanced network fundamentals; offensive and defensive cyber operations in addition to U.S. Air Force and Joint integration within certain combat mission sets.

The application process for the school occurs on a bi-yearly basis and is open to the U.S. Air Force Active Duty, Air Force Reserves, and Air National Guard members.

The current instructor cadre is comprised of eight Active Duty officers and one Air National Guard
Officer. For Weiner, being selected as part of the initial instructor cadre has been a great honor. Each initial cadre member was hand selected by the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard based upon skill sets, operational experience and expertise to include all areas of computer network operations.

The cadre has a very distinct and challenging role as they are responsible for developing the material, writing the courseware, becoming experts in areas that they may have not had operational experience in, and validating the courseware for the first class. Upon graduation the instructors will be the first cyber patch wearers in the U.S. Air Force and will remain assigned as the instructor cadre for up to three years to teach future students.

Cyber is a brand new domain that everyone has a reason to be concerned about. Before the term cyber was the "buzz word", information technology, or IT was a catch all phrase that could describe computer software, hardware, network warfare, network defense, exploitation, penetration testing, and information assurance to name a few. As terms may have changed, the threat has not. Since the infancy of the internet, telephones, hardware and software vulnerabilities have existed and people have exploited them to enhance technology or use it for nefarious means.

The weapons school construct was created to increase combat capability and to build, teach and lead. The heritage of the original weapons school was to salvage the lessons learned from World War II. Post World War II and Korea saw the building of the foundation and the introduction of the fighter gunnery school. After Vietnam, the fighter weapons school was founded to teach future pilots how to apply the weapons and tactics learned from the other wars. Desert Storm assisted with the realization that the key to combat operations was integrated warfighting and thus the Air Force created one Air Force Weapons School.

Expanding our current opportunities a graduate of the Cyber Weapons Instructor Course will be able to bring realism and precise weapons and tactics to planning, integration, and training; truly exemplifying the motto of fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.

"After 15 years in the military I have had many great experiences and opportunities, but if it were not for certain people during my career being a mentor I would not be as successful today as I am. I wanted to say thank you to those members of the military, community and organizations that have believed in me and allowed me these opportunities, most importantly the Air National Guard; 175th Network Warfare Squadron, 175th Wing and US Cyber Command," said Weiner.