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News | April 3, 2024

New NSA Display at BWI Honors SIGINT Support to Warfighters

The early 1950s saw the dedication of two new organizations headquartered less than 10 miles apart: NSA and the Friendship International Airport — now Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Nearly eight decades later, the partnership between these organizations is expanding in a new way.

Earlier this week, Agency leaders traveled to BWI for a first look at a newly installed wall display illustrating NSA’s unique support to the Armed Forces through declassified archival imagery. This first-of-its-kind exhibit highlights the SIGINT work of the Agency and its predecessors during WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

“My grandfather served in WWII on the Red Ball Express, I had an uncle who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, and as a combat contingency deployer of 14 times throughout my 27 years in the military, it’s always good to see representation on the wall,” CMSgt Kenneth Bruce, Command Senior Enlisted Leader of USCYBERCOM and Senior Enlisted Advisor of NSA/CSS, said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Located in BWI’s Honor Flights corridor, the display welcomes and honors active-duty military and veterans arriving at the airport. According to Bruce, it’s important to increase awareness of NSA’s history as a combat support agency providing SIGINT and cybersecurity insights to military operations around the world.

“We’re very appreciative of what this represents and what NSA has represented to our Nation,” Chief Bruce said on behalf of the nearly 17,000 members of the Central Security Service, who ensure the warfighter is integrated into what NSA does on a daily basis. “As these honor flights come in to BWI and thousands of service members walk through these hallways, they’ll always have a reminder of what they do and why they do it.”

A team representing organizations across the Engagement & Policy Directorate worked for five years collaborating to ensure the design, content, and delivery was as impactful as possible in demonstrating NSA’s long-standing support to the U.S. Military, according to Stephanie Bartolowits, chief of Information Management and the project originator. The display supports the Director of National Intelligence’s Transparency Initiative and fulfills NSA’s responsibility to declassify and disseminate materials to the public.

“We try to do a transparency project every year as an Agency to be forward-leaning, to share with the public what we do,” Bartolowits said. “We’re hoping some of these service members will be able to walk by here, recognize themselves and see these things, and know that we really appreciate them.”

This exhibit opened less than two years after NSA launched its first-ever recruitment display at the airport, which is home to the Nation’s largest USO lounge and sees more military members traveling through than any other airport, according to Bartolowits.

Maryland Aviation Administration CEO Ricky Smith said the partnership between BWI and NSA represents a “rich family” of Maryland-based institutions that serve the American people. “To have you present at this airport and to be able to showcase the value you bring to the community is a pleasure,” he said.

According to Engagement & Policy Director Sheila Thomas, the NSA-BWI partnership is natural.

“Support to military is in our core, our ethos. I can’t tell you how much it means to see this in a public arena,” she said. “This will continue on well past us, and that’s really something that’s remarkable, something we can be so proud of.”