Army Chief Warrant Officer Four (CW4) Kimberly Oliver came to AFIT in April 2017 as a cyberspace instructor within the School of Strategic Force Studies. Her assignment is a result of a partnership between the Cyber Center of Excellence – Ft Gordon, GA and AFIT. She instructs various cyberspace operations courses, such as Operational Design, Joint Doctrine, Cyber Strategy, and the Joint Planning Process, in support of the school’s Cyber 200 and 300 professional development courses.
Through those courses, students are provided a broad background in cyberspace operations concepts, including capabilities, limitations and vulnerabilities and their associated application and employment in joint military operations. “It is definitely different being here for the Army and learning how the Air Force does things and understanding how it all fits together. With cyberspace, unlike other warfare domains, we have no choice but to fight together, there is no one organization that has full control or responsibility – we all do. With Cyber 200 and 300 courses being open to sister services, it has made a big difference to the learning outcomes,” said Chief Oliver.
Chief Warrant Officers are the technical subject matter experts for the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. They support officers who are seen more as generalists and work directly with the enlisted who are the hands-on operators. For cyber network defense, Chief Oliver assists with the technical planning for internal defensive measures. She provides detailed information to commanders on how cyber requirements and capabilities fit into a mission such as securing and defending command and control systems such as e-mail and critical mission essential systems.
When Chief Oliver joined the Army in the 1990s, she was working with mainframes, tapes, and punch cards. She transitioned into the information assurance arena in the early 2000s, and later served as an instructor at the Army’s Signal School teaching HTML and UNIX. With multiple overseas and joint assignments, she received her commission as a Warrant Officer on 22 Jun 2004. She has been involved with many high-level cyber defense projects including closing down Operation New Dawn in Kuwait, supporting the Army’s migration to Enterprise Email, and shaping one of the initial training pipelines for the Army’s Cyber Protection Team.
Originally from Queens, NY, Chief Oliver is fourth generation military. Her great-grandfather served in Europe during World War I, her grandfather served in the Pacific during World War II, and her father was a Marine. “I joined the service because I felt it was my obligation. Previous generations fought for me so serving was my opportunity to make a difference for later generations,” said Chief Oliver. She joined the Navy Reserves, graduated from college and worked in the civilian sector for two years. But she longed for the comradery she had observed with active duty service members. “I decided I wanted more. I wanted a challenge, and what better challenge than joining the U.S. Army,” said Chief Oliver. Nearly 26 years later, she still loves her job. “I am still having fun and I enjoy coming into work every day. Each day is different – especially here at AFIT,” said Chief Oliver.
When Chief Oliver joined the service, only a few people in an organization had computers on their desks and cyber defense wasn’t mainstream. Now everyone has a laptop and mobile phone and the responsibility for cyber defense professionals has increased dramatically. “We have increased the number of vectors that have allowed the adversary to take advantage. Years ago the fight was against specific adversaries, now it could be against the individual sitting in their house who is sending out a distributed denial of service attack. I think in the future we will need to go back to some basic fundamentals and realize that we can’t fully rely on technology. Years ago, the only signal given off by a troop was by a radioman, now we have vehicles that have multiple satellites, routers, and switches that are all emanating signals. Even the warrior wears/carries equipment– radios, hand-held devices, things in their head gear – that are giving off signals. The ones coming up behind me have a really tough job because they have to determine how to secure all of those signals/devices, ensure the information is valid and keep the people safe. If the adversary can jam those signals or alter the information, a commander may not have a true picture of the situation. That’s life and death,” said Chief Oliver.
Chief Oliver has started thinking about what she will do in retirement and it isn’t too different from what she does now. She plans to stay in education and work on creating cyberspace curriculum for schools. “I attended a conference recently whose focus was on cyberspace education for grades K-12. I didn’t realize the opportunity in preparing the future cyberspace force. I would love to work with schools to build their cyber course work and that way I can still be involved, keep my military relationships and benefit the community. I am always about giving back,” said Chief Oliver.
“I have literally seen the world. I have been to Korea twice, Kuwait twice, and Afghanistan twice; I have been to Japan, Egypt, Thailand, the Azores, and Ireland; I have lived in Italy and my feet have been on Russian ground in support of a mission in Afghanistan. Looking back, I never would have thought a young girl from Queens, NY would travel the world, meet President Obama, heads of State, ambassadors, and Prime Ministers and help build the Afghanistan National Army and the Afghanistan Police. I have had an awesome ride and I am still enjoying it,” said Chief Oliver.