2019 Cyber Asia-Pacific LREC MIDN 1/C Julia Kalshoven

On July 23, 2019, eight US Naval Academy midshipmen studying Cyber Operations left Annapolis to travel 15 hours to the other side of the globe. Over the course of the next three weeks, the midshipmen visited three countries: Japan, South Korea, and Australia. In each country, they participated in activities and meetings that focused on that country’s efforts in the cyber domain, its relationship with the United States, and its cultural identity and history.

Photos courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

The cyber elements of the trip covered both public and private sector cyber operations, both U.S. and our partners. Military and governmental cyber visits included a U.S. Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC Yokosuka), a U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS Far East), the Japanese National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cyber Security, and the new Australian Joint and Fleet Cyber Units.

The conversation at each location brought to light how the U.S. and allied governments are increasing their focus on the cyber domain and working to train and equip personnel to better secure military networks.

To broaden their perspective, the students also sat down with leadership of NTT Communications—a major private sector Japanese company at the cutting-edge of networking, cloud computing, and security development.

“NTT was the most professionally rewarding experience for me during this LREC,” explained Tina Li, ’21, “I was so impressed by the knowledge of our briefers, and that executive leadership made the time to explain potential threats and answer questions for us.” In a futuristic meeting room equipped with more projectors than one could easily count, NTT provided the more business-oriented global perspective of a private technology company.

Photo courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

To make sense of the public/private dichotomy, the midshipmen boarded a plane to the southern hemisphere. In Australia’s chilly capital city, Canberra, they attended the co-located 2019 “Tech in Government”, “Cybersecurity in Government”, and “Identity” cyber-related conferences. The conferences and exhibits allowed them to engage with both government and industry leaders to learn about the complexity of law, policy, and internet security in Australia.

“The most interesting part to me was seeing how the public and private sectors in Australia approach problems differently, and the expectations that the Australian government puts on industry partners to find a balance between usability and security for the technology it employs," said Julia Kalshoven, '20. Through the talks on digital identity, cybersecurity, and technology development, the midshipmen got a current snapshot of the real-world challenges they had previously studied in the classroom.

Photo courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

Beyond the cyber focus, the midshipmen participated in activities that brought back memories from the Naval Academy. In Japan, they got to know the junior officers of the Japanese Flagship JS Izumo and toured the National Defense Academy (NDA), the Japanese single service academy.

“They are exactly like us. This is so much like the Naval Academy," laughed Isaac Banani, '21, after watching an informational video on the rigors of their service academy life during the NDA tour. In Australia, the midshipmen also spent time with Australian cadets and midshipmen at the Australian Defense Force Academy.

Photos courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

One of the most memorable and personally enriching events for many of the LREC participants was a hike up Japan’s Mount Fuji. The entirety of the climb up the mountain took place at night, under a clear sky of stars, with midshipmen equipped with headlamps and wooden walking sticks, following a trail that has been worn for years by pilgrims and tourists alike.

At each station up the mountain, small huts provided a place where the station’s symbol could be burned into the walking sticks. The sticks quickly became lined with station stamps, added one by one as the trail climbed on, until the whole group summited just before sunrise. The clusters of huddled people watching the light break through the clouds made the religious and cultural significance of the hike indisputably clear.

Photo courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

In Korea, cultural visits were also key. The Korean War Memorial is dedicated to centuries of Korean military history, and it was particularly humbling to the midshipmen for its emphasis on just how far back that history extends, as well as on the UN involvement in the Korean War. A walk around the beautiful grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, once the main royal palace of the ruling Joseon dynasty, also showed the significance of remembered history.

Photo courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

For more current affairs, the midshipmen met with the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea and many U.S. Embassy political, technical, and economic experts. Among the topics discussed was the relationship between North and South Korea and the potential results of increased tensions between the two countries in spite of a continued South Korean hope for reunification. This hope became even clearer to the midshipmen when they toured the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.

Rather than a tense military buffer zone, the videos, artwork, and displays all told a story of peace and historic cultural unity, and expressed a belief in a future unified Korea.
Photo courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

The visit to Australia, a key “Five Eyes” partner, brought its own cultural and political lessons about international cooperation.

“While it often may be tempting to become depressed with issues associated with cyberspace, visiting the Australian Signals Directorate (the equivalent to our NSA) was a great reminder that we aren’t alone in this fight,” explained Anthony Perry ’21. That sense of partnership was personally my favorite moment of the trip.” This partnership was driven home at the Australian War Memorial, where the US and Australia are celebrating “over 100 Years of Mateship”— over 100 years during which the Australians and Americans have stood side by side in battle.

At the War Memorial, the Last Post Ceremony ends every day with a tribute to the memory of a particular Australian military member or historic battle. The midshipmen were honored to play the central role in the closing ceremony by laying the first wreath with a handwritten card to honor those Australians who have lost their lives in support of values that the US equally holds dear.

Throughout the memorial, one recurring phrase summed up the ceremony’s purpose: “Lest we forget.” It was a humbling reminder of the legacy we have to uphold individually, nationally, and globally.
Photo courtesy of Lt. Timothy Galvin

When the final plane took off from Sydney on August 10, the midshipmen that boarded were not the same as the midshipmen who had touched down in Narita three weeks before. Travel and conversations across three countries with three different languages, three different currencies, and three different public transit systems had demonstrated first-hand the diversity of American allies and driven home the growing need for cooperation in the cyber domain.

Led by LT Timothy Galvin and CAPT Paul Tortora (ret), the LREC brought midshipmen from conference rooms to cyber labs, memorials to a mountain top, and left them with new perspectives and ideas to take back to the US Naval Academy and their careers beyond.

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