AURORA, Colo. — Earlier this month, The U.S. Air Force Academy was announced as the National Security Agency's annual NSA Cyber Exercise (NCX) winner.
At the end of the three-day-long cyber competition — which featured all military academies and senior military colleges — General Paul M. Nakasone, Commander, USCYBERCOM, Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, and CSM Sheryl Lyon, USCYBERCOM, NSA/CSS Senior Enlisted Leader, virtually awarded the Air Force Academy's cyber competition team with the NCX trophy after the Academy won the competition.
This week, General Nakasone traveled to Aurora, Colorado to attend the GEOINT Symposium where he made time to personally congratulate the winners by hand delivering the prestigious trophy and presenting the Airmen their certificates in-person.
"As these future cyber warriors and leaders move forward in their careers, they will be faced with combating the ever-increasing attacks by our adversaries and cyber criminals who are set on harming our national security," GEN Nakasone said. "Based on what we saw the week during the NSA Cyber Exercise, I know they are up for the challenge of this strategic environment."
In addition to awarding the the cadets, General Nakasone also met with students from nearby universities and colleges to talk about the missions of both the NSA and USCYBERCOM. These students are part of US CYBERCOM’s Academic Engagement Network.
The win marks the U.S. Air Force Academy's first NCX victory since 2019 — the U.S. Naval Academy won last year's competition.
The U.S. Military Academy placed second, while the U.S. Coast Guard Academy finished third, beating out the U.S. Naval Academy and the senior military colleges: Norwich University, Texas A&M University, The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Tech, and the University of North Georgia. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy was unable to participate this year, but is expected to return next year.
NCX is a year-round, unclassified, multi-day program that culminates in an annual, intensive three-day competition which tests each team's cybersecurity skills. This year's competitors were tested in cryptography, malware, software development, and policy before taking part in a final cyber combat exercise.
The competition was centered on a fictional threat scenario regarding critical infrastructure.
"NCX 2022 showcased the hard work and dedication of the cadets, midshipmen, reserve officers, and civilians who participated," said incoming NCX Program Manager Kelley Welch. "Heading into the cyber combat exercise was a nail-biter, and the winner was a surprise."
These future cyber warriors, regardless of where their careers take them — military, civilian, private, or public sector — will reflect on their NCX experience as they defend the Nation," she added.
Throughout the final cyber combat exercise, participants were tested to solve challenges and capture the flag by offensively attacking and defending against other teams. The exercise provided a platform for participants to test their cybersecurity knowledge and to put that knowledge into action against each other.
Successful teams required coordination and planning, communication, teamwork, and decision-making skills.
By strengthening NSA's relationships with the U.S. service academies and senior military colleges, the NCX program advances the Agency's strategic cybersecurity capability through education and training.
For more information visit the NSA Cyber Exercise webpage.