Middle school and high school cadets in Missouri Military Academy’s cyber classes are gaining essential digital knowledge and skills — and, for those with interest, taking their first steps toward careers in the rapidly growing and vitally important cybersecurity industry. MMA cyber instructor Chief Jason Landrum has been tasked with leading the next generation of technology professionals through the Academy’s exclusive cyber program.
MMA is one of roughly 10 U.S. schools currently teaching the Army JROTC Cybersecurity Pilot program. The innovative, four-year cyber program is part of the Army's effort to infuse critical STEM curriculum in high schools nationwide.
“We are excited to bring Chief Landrum's high level of cyber experience and expertise to the Academy," says MMA President Brigadier General Richard V. Geraci, USA (Ret). "JROTC is an essential component of our military school education at MMA, and the Army JROTC cyber program, with Landrum's leadership, further elevates the program's quality and educational opportunities for MMA cadets."
Chief Landrum is a recently retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4. He has 23 years of military service with experience in multiple locations and combat zones. Most recently, he departed on August 15 from the United States Army Pacific Command, where he was the Senior Information Systems Technical Advisor. Previously, he served as the Senior Technical Advisor to the U.S. Army Central Command Staff and, before that, the Director of Communications for the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq and various other positions.
Landrum has received the following military decorations and awards: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Commendation Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Achievement Medal (1 Silver Leaf and 2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Good Conduct Medal (2 awards), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (2 Campaign Stars), Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal (1 Campaign Star), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (Numeral 6), NATO ISAF Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award (1 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Meritorious Unit Citation (2 Oak Leaf Clusters) and the Basic Army Instructor Badge.
“Having a basic knowledge and sometimes advanced knowledge of cybersecurity will pay dividends in a world where technology is ever-changing,” Landrum says. The more people interface with technology, the more their attack surface grows. Our cadets will learn how to minimize their attack surface or at least understand the risks of how technology exposes them to cyber threats, as well as learn the basics of how to protect themselves."
MMA’s cyber program provides cadets with challenging, relevant experiences and prepares them to enter the cyber workforce, pursue postsecondary studies and/or enter military service. The new cyber program will strengthen MMA’s STEM education and further develop college- and career-ready cadets. In addition to the cyber program, Landrum teaches an elective Introduction to Cyber class for cadets in seventh and eighth grade, which is not part of the Army JROTC program and is wholly sponsored by MMA.
After 23 years in the military and with 23 years of technology, security, and cyber experience, Landrum says he looks forward to helping to train the next generation of potential technology professionals.
He holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Colorado State University and a Master of Arts in Information Technology Management from Webster University. He is working on his dissertation for a Doctor of Technology degree with a concentration in Leadership and Innovation from Purdue University.
Landrum has spent most of his career teaching soldiers, but his introduction to formal teaching began in 2016 when he started teaching at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). While there, he taught multiple technology classes to up-and-coming Soldiers, Officers, and Warrant Officers as they progressed through their technology-based careers. Once he departed, he started teaching industry-standard information security classes over the subsequent two assignments during his off time to fill the gap in trained information/cyber security Soldiers. He taught during his off time until his recent retirement.
Landrum’s career became more security-focused in 2017 when he was the Director of Communications for the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, where he was responsible for the day-to-day communications of the embassy staff and the security of their information, both at rest and in transit. This opportunity led to two follow-on assignments that were focused on cyber/information security.
"As I progressed through different positions, I developed an understanding of cyber and information security that enabled me to guide decisions and help secure communications for the Warfighter and enable mission accomplishment through risk management, policy, and technological advancement," he says.
Landrum brings his expertise in cybersecurity to MMA to help meet the following U.S. Army JROTC Cyber program objectives:
- Preparation for industry-recognized certifications
- Curriculum developed by subject matter experts
- Hands-on experiences through cyber competitions
- Opportunities for cyber internships and mentorships
- Potential for college credits
- Interactive learning experiences
Developed in cooperation between the U.S. Army and the University of Alabama, Huntsville, MMA’s cyber courses are based on industry-standard best practices and a tried-and-tested curriculum. The four-year curriculum will focus on the following:
- Year 1: CompTIA A+, which is the industry standard for launching IT careers in today’s digital world.
- Year 2: CompTIA Network+, which helps develop careers in IT infrastructure covering troubleshooting, configuring, and managing networks.
- Year 3: CompTIA Security+, which is the first security certification IT professionals should earn.
- Year 4: This year is still in development but will focus on bringing the cadets’ skills together in a culminating course that will solidify and hone cyber skills.
Chief Landrum says his teaching philosophy is: "Repetition. Repetition. Repetition," as many technology careers, and specifically cyber careers, are focused on memorization. “In a fast-paced and technology-advanced world, sometimes you just have to know the answer to a problem when you are trying to defend yourself from a cyber attack,” he says. “You do not always have time to look up the answers on how to defend yourself.”
The cyber program is rigorous, according to Landrum, and to be successful, cadets must dedicate time outside of the classroom for studying.
"There are three things needed to be a cyber professional: skill, will, and ability," he says. "The cadets in my class have to come to class with a willingness to learn and the ability to overcome the challenges of my course, and it is my job to teach them the skills needed to be successful in class, as well as in the outside world."