AF implements pathfinder program for cybersecurity certification

A Security Plus textbook is displayed on a table after the 501 Sec+ ribbon-cutting ceremony at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., May 24, 2018. The 336th Training Squadron spearheaded a team of 23 individuals over the span of almost 18 months to complete the transition from the 401 Sec+ course to the new 501 course material. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

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A Security Plus textbook is displayed on a table after the 501 Sec+ ribbon-cutting ceremony at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., May 24, 2018. The 336th Training Squadron spearheaded a team of 23 individuals over the span of almost 18 months to complete the transition from the 401 Sec+ course to the new 501 course material. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Holly Mansfield)

The Air Force is implementing a pathfinder program to give students another opportunity to pass the Security+ exam and follow their initial cybersecurity Air Force Specialty Code.

The Security+ certification can be acquired through passing the Security+ exam and is necessary to validate that an individual possesses the necessary skills to perform in an information technology security-based career. The exam is known to be complex and difficult and many Airmen fail and lose their designated career field.

The new program allows selected re-classed students to retake the exam during the first six months at their duty station, such as Airman 1st Class Johnathan Garcia, 75th Communications Squadron client systems technician, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and Senior Airman Jennica Ripoli, 21st CS communications technician, Peterson AFB, Colorado.

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After failing the Security+ exam, Garcia graduated from a different career field and went on to work at his next base doing Knowledge Management. He then switched back to his initial job after retaking and passing the exam.

“The Security+ test is very difficult, and I fell short of a passing score,” Garcia said. “I was shocked when I heard I was able to take the test again. After passing, I felt accomplished and motivated because I was ready to pursue the career I initially wanted.”

He was the first Airman to be a part of the program, which made him the first to switch career fields and possess two AFSCs.

Losing the opportunity to pursue a desired career field can leave Airmen discouraged. Ripoli was able to switch to her desired AFSC after completing the exam on her own. Similar to Garcia, being able to follow the path she wanted made her feel rejuvenated.

“Missing my chance of getting my desired job in the Air Force crushed me,” Ripoli said. “It felt like I wasn’t able to achieve what I worked so hard for, and I would never be able to follow the career I wanted. Being able to eventually transfer over to cyber surety after passing amazed me and made me feel like the Air Force is really trying to help me follow the right path.”

Earning a second chance has not only motivated Ripoli but also instilled a sense of resilience.

“This opportunity proved that I could overcome failure,” Ripoli said. “I worked hard and continued to pursue the path I wanted, and I was successful.”

Another positive outcome of the program is the Airmen have the skill set of two different jobs.

“I feel I am more qualified with the knowledge of two AFSCs,” Garcia said. “I have more knowledge working with the other cyber jobs on base.”

The 81st Training Group hopes to continue to motivate Airmen and send them down the right path with this program. Chief Master Sgt. Charles Sargent, 336th Training Squadron superintendent, believes placing people in their preferred career field will not only benefit the Airmen but the Air Force as well.

“We want to find the right path for our Airmen,” Sargent said. “Placing them in career fields they are passionate about will improve our career fields and the Air Force as a whole. They will be in a position where they want to be successful and productive.”

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