Jacksonville community awarded Great American Defense Communities award

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Roles
  • 189th Airlift Wing

 The Association of Defense Communities recently awarded Central Arkansas as one of the five 2020 classes of Great American Defense Communities. The ADC is an organization with the mission of supporting all branches of service at the national level with and through the support of communities and states that are home to military installations. 

   “Being recognized as a Great American Defense Community gives national credibility to the support of our community partners for the base, its mission, personnel, and families,” said Annabelle Davis, the executive secretary for the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council. “While we know we try to do a great job to support the base and all the wings, it is really gratifying to be recognized for that on a national level.” 

   The yearly award focused on the contributions made within the educational community, in particular the partnership between the 223rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron and Jacksonville High School. Cyber operators from the wing in coordination with cyber instructors at the school developed the course and rose to the challenge to inspire and educate future cyber operators and Air National Guardsmen. The 223rd, whose prior experience involves the East initiative in the West Little Rock area, provided courses in wireless encryption security and in-turn showed the students the importance of good encryption and strong passwords. Each student was then provided the opportunity to crack into a network using the knowledge they learned.

   “The cybersecurity industry is rapidly growing and there are thousands of unfilled jobs within the U.S. economy,” said 1st Lt. Thomas Van Dorple, the 223rd COS flight commander and military volunteer for the school’s cyber course. “If we can spark their interest in high school, hopefully, that will lead to successful career paths and future growth within this sector for the state of Arkansas.” 

   The 189th Airlift Wing is no stranger to training and education. Known for it’s flying mission, training Guardsmen, international and inter-service C-130H aircrew as well as cyber operators, the wing adds precedence on the value of training and educating Airmen in the community. Through the labs offered, our cyber team hopes to spark interest and consider cybersecurity as a future Air National Guard career path.

   “Our wing is great at training,” said Van Dorple. “It makes sense to leverage what we do well to give back to the community that supports us. As Guardsmen, we are called to serve. This is just another positive outlet to do that.” 

   So far, the squadron provided outreach to 160 children within the local community. Through the East Initiative to the cybersecurity course offered to students right outside the base, the Guardsmen of the 189th Airlift Wing epitomize the term Citizen Airman and embed their roots deep within the community they represent. 

With nearly 300 communities, states, regions, and affiliated industry organizations as members, ADC represents every major defense community and state in the nation. To learn more, visit www.defensecommunities.org.