Air Force ROTC Cadets Visit Installations in Maryland, Meet Mass. Lawmakers

AFROTC cadet Elizabeth Byrne, a junior nursing major, in the cockpit of a KC-135R Stratotanker (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kat Justen)
AFROTC cadet Elizabeth Byrne, a junior nursing major, in the cockpit of a KC-135R Stratotanker (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kat Justen)

Eighteen cadets from the campus’ Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 370 visited the Defense Information Systems Agency, an Air Force Reserve unit at Joint Base Andrews, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressman James McGovern over spring break.

The cadets learned received career advice and an overview of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) during a visit to the combat support agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., on March 20.

The group had a first-hand opportunity to see how DISA helps the Air Force achieve its mission in air, space and cyberspace.

DISA Vice Director Air Force Major Gen. Sarah E. Zabel welcomed the cadets and their chaperones, Major Bradley Podliska and Capt. Codi Carron, before opening a discussion about the importance of cybersecurity.

“Cyber [security] is something that affects everyone,” said Zabel. “Every single system we have, every mission that the Air Force does—that any service does—cyber is absolutely key to it.”

“We have to continue to come up with new ideas, new approaches, and be linked with industry to understand the best way for fighting the adversary that continues to [upgrade] their own capabilities. It is a constantly changing battlefield, it needs active minds and imaginations for dealing with the changes,” she said.

Other DISA officials provided the cadets with a snapshot of current operations on a typical day at the agency and a briefing on its cyber defense programs and initiatives. Another speaker offered advice on the importance of maintaining relationships with their peers and the immediate expectations the Air Force will place on the cadets after they are commissioned as officers.

The cadets continued their trip to the Washington, D.C. area with a stop at Joint Base Andrews (formelry Andrews Air Force Base) on March 21, where they were hosted by the 439th Air Refueling Wing of the Air Force Reserve. The cadets learned about the unit, its mission and the structure, function and capabilities of the KC-135 Stratotanker.

The group, which included 10 UMass Amherst cadets and eight from UMass Lowell, also paid calls to Sen. Warren and Congressman McGovern on March 22.