Group 1001 Recognizes Military Appreciation Month

May is Military Appreciation Month. This month, Group 1001 recognizes and honors those who have served, including our own employees.

Chris Kennedy, Chief Information Security Officer

Kennedy

What branch did you serve in and for how long?

United States Marine Corps, 1997-2004

Can you share a little about your service and role?

My military career was unique, especially for the Marine Corps. I started as an NROTC Midshipman at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. My exposure there showed me optionality in Naval Service offerings, and the challenge and culture of the Corps drew me in. Upon graduation, I was commissioned and became one of the Corp's first “combined” Tactical Communications & Data Systems Officers (0602). It was an incredibly comprehensive occupational specialty, where I received specialized training spanning various tactical secure radios field command net switching, to all things computers and enterprise IT. As I was told, “You can talk about us, but ya can’t talk without us.” I strategically chose this field as I knew there would be a strong post-service career opportunity.

My first duty assignment was the first-ever Information Systems Security Officer for the largest base in the Marine Corps in Camp Lejeune, NC. I found myself as a focal point of an emerging strategic shift in military doctrine. In the late 90s, the military services had begun to harness the power of the internet’s global connectivity to empower “network-centric warfare.” Through leveraging internet-driven technologies, the Corps had built tremendous strategic operational and security dependencies in most our core combat support missions. Intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, logistics, tactical communications, and command and control capabilities were all at the forefront of an emergent misunderstood risk. It was around this time the US Government realized the significant security implications of this doctrinal shift. I credit this as the birth of the cybersecurity industry today. My first order ever given was “change the password on everything you know exists” in response to the first believed state-sponsored cyber espionage attack called Moonlight Maze. Cyber as a military strategic component was born here.

Within a few years, and with aggressively combatting some of the worst and most disruptive globally impacting security events like the Melissa, Loveletter, Nimda, and Code Red malicious worms and viruses, I was promoted and transferred to Quantico, VA to build the Corp’s first ever centralized cyber defense organization. The mission of the Marine Computer Emergency Response Team (MAR-CERT) was to serve as the Corp’s focal point for critical network systems defense and incident response. Our teams deployed early-stage commercial security technologies known as Intrusion Detections Systems and were ground-floor contributors to the development of central logging and response system known as Security Information Managers (SIMs). Our mission was simple: to keep our enemies out of our networks so our warfighters can prosecute their missions.

After six years of being on both the bleeding edge of the security industry’s evolution and the US Marine Corps’s rapid adaptation to the emerging cyber threat, I transitioned from service and led the development of the U.S. Department of Treasury’s cyber defense program under a defense contract. Within a few months of transition, the second Gulf War started, and I was mobilized out of the Inactive Ready Reserve and deployed to Iraq for combat operations. I hit the deck the day the Marines took Baghdad and found myself leading other reserve Marines and working with the British Royal Marines in late combat phase security operations, protecting residual country critical infrastructure, and security for humanitarian efforts.

Why did you decide to serve?

I grew up a bootstrap kid from Tennessee, largely raised under my grandfather, a prolific carpenter who had his hands on much of what is modern-day Nashville. I learned many lessons about work ethic, community, civility, responsibility, and respect from him. I found getting stripes for adventure and service from Scouting pushed me toward a career in service. Also, the scholarship opportunities were attractive. I did well academically in high school and was awarded one of the highest-value scholarships of my graduating year, as a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship awardee to Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. I could never have dreamed of affording attendance to such an esteemed college without it.

I’ve been lucky and shrewd in seizing opportunities in my early career that shaped how my education and career path panned out. One thing is clear: being a serviceman as an Officer in the finest fighting force in the world catapulted me out of a difficult situation and greatly prepared me for my future successes.

What are some of the transferrable skills and experiences you’ve carried over from serving to your current role at Group 1001?

So many if you’re prepared and thoughtful about your career. Where else can you take a 22-year-old frat boy and teach them the disciplines to be responsible for the lives of other warfighters, lead small unit combat tactic, and expect nothing but performance? To be handed an obtuse and somewhat misunderstood mission centered on emerging technology and put the weight of how the Marine Corps prosecutes warfare in the modern age weighs somewhat heavily on the shoulders of a young developing officer. Where else would one find such an opportunity?

An early career in service presents incredibly formative growth by foisting such great responsibility upon you. You are taught in principle and resilience to adapt and overcome in all circumstances. I gained so much in observing what good (and sometimes bad) leadership looks like and what it means to serve with honor, the courage and commitment to dedicate to mission and troop welfare, the criticality of communicating a clear vision and strategy, the ability to understand and manage the difference between urgent and important… even in chaos.

These formative years have incredibly shaped my career and I carry these impressions in my responsibilities. To be an effective leader is a challenge that starts with a person's instilled values and spans learned abilities and skills. Honor, Courage, and Commitment are the core values of a Marine, and these become part of your DNA throughout life. Lead with integrity, be an owner of your mission, do what’s best for your people and develop them, have high standards, and be smart, fearless, and aggressive in your execution – these are all derivative of operating principles I live by and impress into my teams.

As the Group 1001’s most senior security leader with a critical responsibility to protect our current business and future, with quite a journey ahead of me, I’d hope the Group 1001 community already has begun to feel the ripples from the culture shift I’m driving via the caliber and intensity of the security team taking shape here.

I also look forward to getting involved in shaping our internal Group 1001 Veterans Community activities and working with Human Resources to drive veteran transition internship and employment opportunities. Group 1001 is an incredibly philanthropic organization and I hope to shape our contributions to veteran support and empowerment charities. It’s an honor to serve our great community here.

Amyn Gilani, Director, Threat Intelligence

Gilani

What branch did you serve in and for how long?

U.S. Air Force, September 2004 - September 2010

Can you share a little about your service and role?

I served as an Intelligence Operator & Analyst, primarily stationed at the National Security Agency supporting the Global War on Terrorism, a global military campaign targeting militant terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and other militias.

My first role as an intelligence operator involved tracking and targeting high-value terrorist targets and networks using cell phones and geospatial metadata to understand the location and pattern-of-life behaviors so we could strike at the right time using sophisticated drones. This was the dawn of a new era as air superiority was led by drone warfare – and the U.S. had the best tech. We were equipped with the MQ-1 Predator, an unmanned aircraft with the ability to send a Hellfire missile within a 2x2 car window. I recall going through hours of footage and maps to understand the terrain. By the end of my tenure supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, I knew Baghdad better than my hometown in South Carolina.

When I came back from Iraq, my commander transferred me over to support a small unit with a new mission that was just getting its legs focused on cyberwarfare. My job was to understand the offensive cyber capabilities of nation-state adversaries that pose a danger to the U.S. The unit I supported later became the U.S. Cyber Command, emerging as the primary combatant command for cyberwarfare within the Department of Defense. This assignment forged my fulfilling career path in cybersecurity.

Why did you decide to serve?

The events of September 11th had a profound impact on me when I was 14 years old. My immigrant parents, who had fled the tragic genocide in Bangladesh in 1971, had instilled a deep pride in the U.S. from an early age due to the opportunities it provided them – opportunities like education, employment, a better quality of life, and a chance to pursue their dreams, which were often unavailable in Bangladesh.

When 9/11 occurred, I felt inspired to defend and secure our nation. By the time I graduated at 17, I was eager to enlist in the military. Despite being a minor, I needed an adult to sign my enlistment papers. My mother strongly opposed the idea of me joining the Air Force, especially with the Iraq War underway. However, I managed to persuade her that serving was my dream and that as a family, we owed it to our country to contribute as much as it had given us. Eventually, she gave her blessing by signing my enlistment papers.

What are some of the transferrable skills and experiences you’ve carried over from serving to your current role at Group 1001?

The beautiful thing about being a cybersecurity professional is that it feels very much like a military mission. There are many parallels and life lessons that I can draw from my military experiences that I apply to my current role leading threat management at Group 1001:

  • Assess and adapt – fast!

  • Lead by example

  • Be tenacious

  • Focus and think critically

  • Communicate clearly, up and down the ranks

  • Empower your teammates

  • Make alliances and build trust

  • Be valuable to your partner organizations

  • Learn from your mistakes

  • Be self-aware

Lastly, the Air Force emphasized the importance of taking pride in one's work, being consistent, and striving for excellence, teaching me that how you do anything is how you do everything.

Jessica Craven, Contract Administration Representative

Craven

What branch do you serve in?

I have been in the Army Reserves for 11 years this month. My goal is 20 years.

Can you share a little about your service and role?

I am a Signal Officer, which focuses on communications.

Why did you decide to serve?

I decided to serve because I had multiple friends and family that had served. Also, the Army Reserves provides many opportunities for growth and travel.

What are some of the transferrable skills and experiences you’ve carried over from serving to your current role at Group 1001?

A transferable skill from my experience serving I have carried over to my current Group 1001 role includes being very detail-oriented.

Travis Dunbar – Service Coordinator, Axia

Dunbar

What Branch did you serve in and for how long?

US Navy. I have had a few breaks in service. I just passed my 24th year of service and I am looking towards retirement from the Navy soon.

Can you share a little about your service and role?

I joined the Navy on September 9, 1992, embarking on a journey that has taken me from serving on the USS John F Kennedy (CV-67) to my current role as the Company Chief of Echo Company in NMCB 25. My experiences have been diverse and rewarding, ranging from living on a floating town of 5,000+ sailors to deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions.

Transitioning to the Reserves and the Seabee community provided me with opportunities to make a tangible impact, including constructing medical buildings and schools, and digging wells in multiple countries. These experiences instilled in me a deep sense of purpose and commitment to service.

In my current role, I oversee over 200 sailors and play a pivotal role in ensuring operational effectiveness and the development of future leaders. As the Company Chief, I am responsible for managing administrative responsibilities, training requirements, and operational orders, while also guiding and training junior officers to excel in their roles.

As I reflect on my service, I am grateful for the experiences, challenges, and opportunities that have shaped me into the leader I am today. I remain committed to serving my country and making a positive impact in whatever path I pursue next.

Why did you decide to serve?

Several factors influenced my decision to join the Navy, starting with a moment of inspiration during a summer school class when a Navy recruiter showed us a video of different jobs in the Navy. As a 12-year-old, seeing someone mount a missile on a jet sparked something within me, and I knew right then and there that's what I wanted to do. That initial fascination with the Navy's technical aspects evolved into a lifelong passion for serving my country and contributing to something greater than myself.

Another significant reason for joining was the opportunity for education. Knowing that my family couldn't afford to send me to college, I saw the Navy as a pathway to furthering my education and paving my own way in life. It offered me the chance to pursue my interests while also serving my country. The Navy also gave me with a sense of direction and purpose after high school. While I didn't have a clear plan for my future at the time, joining the Navy gave me structure and a sense of belonging that I couldn't find elsewhere.

Despite a few breaks in service. what has kept me coming back to the Navy is the unparalleled sense of camaraderie and connection I share with my fellow service members. There's a bond that goes beyond words – a shared commitment to our mission and each other that I haven't found anywhere else. It's this sense of calling and the relationships I've built along the way that continue to motivate me to serve.

What are some of the transferrable skills and experiences you’ve carried over from serving to your current role at Group 1001?

Drawing from my military experience, I've brought a wealth of transferable skills and experiences to my role at Axia. My military experience has equipped me with a unique blend of leadership, discipline, teamwork, and integrity that directly translates to success in my role at Axia. Among the most prominent are leadership and discipline. In the military, I held various leadership positions where I provided direction and empowered teams to achieve our mission objectives.

Time management has been crucial in my role as a project manager at Axia. My military training instilled a disciplined approach to prioritizing tasks and managing resources effectively. My experience in teamwork has been invaluable in driving collective success at Axia. I've learned to leverage the strengths of diverse team members and foster a collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute their best. Discipline, another key skill from my military background, has enabled me to remain focused and self-aware, both personally and within my team. Finally, a commitment to integrity contributes to a positive work environment at Axia, fostering trust and credibility within our team and across the organization.

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