The Charger Blog

University’s Connecticut Institute of Technology Hosts Cutting-Edge Cybersecurity Training for the Connecticut National Guard

Project IRONCLAD, a National Security Agency- and Department of Defense-funded program, offers members of the Connecticut National Guard a unique hands-on opportunity to develop the critical skills that will enable them to respond to cyberattacks.

Aug 9, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Liberty Page welcomes trainees
Liberty Page '91 M.S. welcomes trainees to Project IRONCLAD.

Jean Philippe studied computer science in college and now works in the field of information technology. A member of the Connecticut National Guard, he recently took the opportunity to further his education in cybersecurity.

Philippe was part of "cybersecurIty tRaining for the cOnNeCticut nationaL guArD" (Project IRONCLAD), a cutting-edge cybersecurity training program, held at the University earlier this summer for members of the Connecticut National Guard.

“The training has been excellent,” said Philippe. “There was so much material I’ve been wanting to learn, and we’re doing a lot at this training. It’s really interesting.”

The University’s Connecticut Institute of Technology received a grant for nearly $200,000 from the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense to support the training. The University hosted the first two training sessions this summer, focusing on cyber operations – specifically, defensive and incidence response operations. Trainees engage in hands-on learning, taking part in laboratory exercises that enable them to solve cases similar to what they might face in the real world.

‘We’re going to be prepared to respond’

As part of the opening of the program, the Connecticut Institute of Technology hosted Gerald E. McDonald, brigadier general of the Connecticut National Guard, who spoke to the inaugural cohort of trainees.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Clifton Miller.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Clifton Miller addresses trainees.

“We’ve been tested in Connecticut over the past couple years already, supporting the state through some challenges in cyberattacks, said General McDonald, who serves as the key military adviser for Air Force matters to the Adjutant General and as the principal representative of the Air National Guard senior leadership on the Adjutant General's joint Army/Air National Guard state headquarters staff. “We are the response force. We’re going to train, we’re going to learn, and then we’re going to be prepared to respond.”

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Clifton Miller was a guest during the first session, and he welcomed the second cohort of trainees. Discussing several recent cyberattacks at the national level, he emphasized the importance of the training program, which he says is timely and critical.

“We’re living in interesting times, and this is the time to be in cybersecurity,” he told the trainees. “This is the season for cyber awareness and training. You’re in the right place at the right time to learn about this. It’ll open your minds and I trust that it will be exciting. The instructor is excellent, and my experience last time was great."

‘This is our way of giving back’

Led by Jeremy Blackthorne, co-founder and president of the Boston Cybernetics Institute (BCI), the training enabled members of the Connecticut National Guard to train in the University’s state-of-the-art facilities, including the Samuel S. Bergami Jr. Cybersecurity Center. Blackthorne has trained service members from multiple branches of the military in cybersecurity.

Ibrahim “Abe” Baggili, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert in cybersecurity and founding director of the Connecticut Institute of Technology, serves as the principal investigator of Project IRONCLAD, overseeing the curriculum development.

“We love what we do at the University, and we’re passionate about it,” he said. “We’re also passionate about helping secure the state of Connecticut and beyond. It’s very important for us to give back to the community, and this is our way of giving back. This is our way of working with the Connecticut Army National Guard and with the state to ensure cybersecurity resilience, and we’re very proud to offer this important training.”

Jeremy Blackthorne leads a training session as part of Project IRONCLAD.
Jeremy Blackthorne leads a training session as part of Project IRONCLAD.
‘The training was an asset for servicemembers’

One of fewer than two dozen universities in the Unites States – and one of only two in New England – that have been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations by the National Security Agency, the University of New Haven is well positioned to offer trainees a unique opportunity to build their skills in areas such as cyber forensics, reverse engineering, and cyber defense.

“It is an honor to support our state and country by training the Connecticut National Guard in reverse engineering and memory forensics as part of IRONCLAD this summer,” said Liberty Page '91 M.S., program coordinator for the University’s undergraduate program in cybersecurity and networks. “Talent in this area is very scarce, and we were able to start 50 worthy men and women on a path to work in these areas.”

After the training, the University evaluates the success of the program with tools such as surveys and an after-action review (AAR) to explore individual perspectives, to ensure the highest quality training, and to continue to improve the program. Major Ryan Miller, team chief of the Defensive Cyber Operations Element at the Connecticut National Guard, conducts the AAR.

The University’s grant proposal for 2022 IRONCLAD has been accepted for training Army and Air Force National Guard members from New England at Cyber Yankee, a training exercise. The University is already planning to welcome the next cohort of members of the Connecticut National Guard to campus for training next year.

For Project IRONCLAD trainee Pascual Del Rosario, the program was a meaningful way for him to develop his skills while collaborating with fellow members of the Connecticut National Guard.

“This training was an asset for servicemembers,” he said. “It was also a great opportunity for me to connect with my counterparts. The training is good.”