During the week of April 11, 2016, teams of Sea Cadets from Centurion Battalion of Winter Park, Florida, and Fort Fisher Division of San Diego, California, competed at the CyberPatriot VIII National Finals Competition in Baltimore, Maryland.
Both Sea Cadet teams performed well with Centurion Battalion’s Team Netrunners placing first in the nation in the all-service division. The all-service division is comprised of 1,281 teams from JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, and the Sea Cadet program. Team Netrunners, which is sponsored by Black & Veatch, is the first Navy-associated team to place first in the competition’s history. This victory awards a $2,000 scholarship, provided by the presenting sponsor Northrop Grumman, to each of the six team members.
Sponsored by the Air Force Association, CyberPatriot prepares competitors for careers in computer security or related fields. According to its website the competition “puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services in a six hour period.”
Both Sea Cadet teams have a history of success in this competition. Centurion Battalion has been participating in CyberPatriot for three years. In their first year, they made it all the way to the National Finals, placing ninth in the all-service division with their coach, Ensign Kenneth Steffey, receiving the honor of CyberPatriot Coach of the Year. Fort Fisher Division’s Team Left Coast, coached by Joe Gombos, competed at the CyberPatriot VII National Finals in 2015, placing third in the all-service division and winning the Cisco Networking Challenge.
To give some perspective, there are 13,052 CyberPatriot competitors and only the top .8% of teams make it to the National Finals. On a percentile basis, it’s harder to get to this competition than it is for an NCAA basketball team to make it to the Final Four.
Taking its name from a Linux operating system, Team Netrunners spent three to six hours each week at practice and countless hours at home working to hone their skills. This time was spent in addition to their typical Sea Cadet, school, and extracurricular activities – and it paid off big this month when the team heard their name called at the awards ceremony.
The team captain, a high school senior Chief Petty Officer Peter Steffey, felt honored to be part of this year’s team and hopes that this win will “encourage more Sea Cadet units to join the program.”
In addition to the honor of winning, the CyberPatriot program provides tangible benefits to its participants in the form of life-long skills. Steffey plans to attend the University of Central Florida in the fall and hopes to continue to participate in cybersecurity competitions with the university's two-time national champion team.
Praising his team’s focus, determination, and teamwork, Ensign Steffey says, “It’s different for Sea Cadet units as they meet out-of-school and have to juggle many other demands on their time.” Their competitors in the all-service competition, including many JROTC units, are often able to practice during and after school. Steffey feels this factor further highlights the incredible commitment of Sea Cadet teams. Sea Cadets have to work even harder than their competition to master the skills required to succeed at this level, he says.
Sea Cadets are no strangers to commitment. Cadets often cite the Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment as core to their personal ethos. Their consistently high level of performance at competitions like CyberPatriot is just one of many ways in which Sea Cadets embody this universal value.
BRAVO ZULU to both of our teams.
Centurion Battalion's Team Netrunners: CPO Peter Steffey: CPO Nolan Johnson; PO1 Sam Precourt; SN Monica Vogel; SN Leilani Morales; SA Jacob Dawson; ENS Ken Steffey; INST Chris Walcutt; MIDN Jesse Rodriguez; and INST Rachel Thompson.
Fort Fisher Division’s Team Iron Server: PO2 Nick Winham; PO2 Maya Morales; SA Jonathan Truong; SA Garrett Swift; SA Laura Lopez; INST Joseph Gombos; ENS Dina Swift; and their escort officer ENS Bobby Wen.