Companies team to make warriors cyberwarriors

September 9, 2012

The 2010 visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was an emotional one for Fred Singer. As chief executive of Echo360, a Dulles company that captures lectures on video, friendships with military veterans had previously propelled him to experiment with Internet tools to help soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder.

But that tour of the medical center increased the urgency.

“By the end of the visit, I knew that I could help and that my knowledge of technology and communities would be a valuable piece in the puzzle,” said Singer, a former AOL executive who also helped build The Washington Post’s Web site.

Now two years later, a dozen injured veterans are on pace for a career in cybersecurity. Echo360 teamed with Lunarline, an Arlington cybersecurity government contractor, to create Warrior 2 Cyber Warrior, a six-month training program to help wounded veterans get cybersecurity certifications through recorded online lectures. The remote access allows veterans across the country to use the program.

Program officials said that the participants are suffering from PTSD and minor physical injuries and believe giving them a career will make a difference.

“I’ve seen the different outcomes where someone comes back with PTSD and they’re put in an environment where they have a good career and something to look forward to,” said Waylon Krush, chief executive of Lunarline, who was disabled when nerves in his leg were severed during an accident in Bosnia. “It’s completely different from someone who comes back and doesn’t have that career or the experience and is having difficulty holding onto a job. We can not only give them a job, but give them a career.”

W2CW officials said a dozen companies have agreed to hire a graduate from the program.

Officials are also looking for others to help fund the 501(c)3 nonprofit, which is currently supported by Echo360 and Lunarline. Singer said to fund 15 participants costs “well into the six figures.”

Other companies such as Raytheon and Cisco have also funded programs like the Wounded Warrior Project, which trains veterans in cybersecurity.

Veteran affairs experts said that while some companies have been bad for veterans by charging them for education programs and placing them in unsuitable positions, the most successful initiatives are programs that certify veterans.

“Most companies look for a job and someone to fill it,” said Bill Lockwood, director of Wounded Warrior Careers Program at the National Organization on Disability. “I think it’s really essential that [companies] see if this is something that they want to pursue ... and help get them through a certification.”

Classes began July 31 and the first class is scheduled to graduate in December.

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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