The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Tech and the Arkansas National Guard announced Wednesday they are partnering on a pair of programs, with officials from both institutions saying each has something to learn from the other.
For Pulaski Tech, the Arkansas Air National Guard will have a cyber security internship program where students can get training in U.S. Air Force information technology programs.
For Arkansas Guardsmen, Pulaski Tech will provide a course on aviation maintenance training that can help them acquire accreditation for civilian jobs.
“Those training experiences will enable our students and the airmen to advance their skills in two highly demanded fields for our state and certainly for our country — cybersecurity and aviation technology,” said Margaret Ellibee, chancellor of University of Arkansas-Pulaski Tech.
Senior Master Sgt. Bill Cox of the 223rd Cyber Operations Squadron said experience is key for anyone looking to enter the cyber security field, whether in the military or civilian life, and the internship will provide students with hands-on experience.
“Cyber is one of those hard realms that whenever people come into this workforce, you have to have a lot of experience behind you,” Cox said.
As part of the internship, Pulaski Tech students will train with the Air Force’s cyber ranges, where students can learn how to detect and counter cyber security threats.
Roderick Murdock Jr. was the first Pulaski Tech student to complete the cybersecurity internship, which Pulaski Tech and the Arkansas Air National Guard said will continue for fall and spring semesters, taking one to two students.
Murdoch said he was trained using real-life cyber security scenarios with the Air Force. Now he takes classes online at Oregon State University, where he is studying cyber security. He said he wants to work for the government after graduation.
Murdock said cybersecurity wasn’t originally on his radar as a career option, but his father, a network specialist for AT&T, pushed him into the field. Murdoch later enrolled at Pulaski Tech to study information technology.
“I got started with that, and so it wasn’t enough,” Murdock said. “I wanted to learn a little bit more and I wanted to dive deeper into it.”
For the Air Force, the partnership has the obvious benefit of providing the ability to help recruit more experienced cyber security experts.
“If we can screen a candidate and say you will be a great fit, you know, in the Air National Guard and give them that opportunity, then absolutely,” said Col. Dean Martin, commander of the 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas National Guard.
The other part of the partnership is for aviation technology, where airmen can take a course at Pulaski Tech that can help them gain accreditation for civil aviation jobs. Guardsmen can take the seven-week course, geared for them, on aviation mechanics.
While Air Force aircraft maintainers may have expertise in the mechanics of a military jet engine, they may still need some training on the schematics of a civilian prop plane, Martin said.
“Our maintainers already have a lot of the skills that are taught in this course, but there are some areas where we don’t, where we’re lacking,” Martin said.
The partnership began in 2019 through the Honorary Commanders Program in an effort to integrate the Guard and the community. Martin and Ellibee met through the program, where they brainstormed how they can work more closely.
Martin said the Air Force wanted the aviation maintenance training and offered on-base cybersecurity training for students.
“It advances, we believe, innovative and I think again very relevant and strong business and industry — and in this case, military partnerships — for here in Central Arkansas and the metro,” Ellibee said.