A Night of Celebration and Inspiration with Military Cyber Leaders

By Ronnie Bustamante

April 22, 2024

As the Military Cyber Professionals Association’s (MCPA) annual Board of Advisors (BOA) dinner meeting unfolded on December 13, 2023, there was a distinct sense of excitement in the air. Time seemed to have flown by in a whirlwind of achievements and milestones since our last gathering. The dozens of attendees reminisced and celebrated, as we recounted the impactful moments of the year and expressed gratitude for the invaluable connections fostered within the military cyber community.

Image: MCPA 2023 BoA Dinner (photo courtesy of IWP)

The accomplishments covered were many, including the launch of our Enlisted Child’s Scholarship and Cyber Snackz™. WIth the scholarship selection committee including the current and past three Senior Enlisted Leaders (SELs) of US Cyber Command, we could not be happier with the interest received on that new program. Regarding Cyber Snackz, the activity and coloring book we published to help younger children learn age-appropriate cybersecurity concepts, is another high point for the organization that has caught the attention of many.

Another highlight of the evening was the celebration of our second national convention, HammerCon. Designed to serve as the premier gathering of/by/for the American military cyber community, HammerCon has been successful on all fronts. With around 600 attendees in 2023, almost doubling attendance from the initial convention in 2022, HammerCon is definitely gaining momentum. Divided into three tracks – main, academic, and commercial –and commented by various villages and exhibitors,the convention offered a diverse range of insights and ideas about all things military cyber. From seasoned professionals to newcomers in the community, everyone attending the convention found inspiration and knowledge in abundance.

Image: MCPA 2023 BoA Dinner slide featuring highlights from HammerCon 2023 (MCPA)

At the Advisors dinner, there was also an air of anticipation surrounding the remarks of our newly appointed and inaugural MCPA National President, Chris Cleary. Within the MCPA, he had been part of the initial MCPA concept development phase, served as the inaugural National Capital Region (NCR) President, and on the Board of Directors. In addition to his significant private sector work, his military service includes organizations like Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and a newly established US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). Immediately preceding his appointment as National President, Chris also served in the Senior Executive Service (SES) as the inaugural Principal Cyber Advisor (PCA) of the Department of the Navy. 

With his distinguished background and unwavering commitment to the organization’s mission, Cleary’s appointment brings upgraded heft and reinforces the upward trajectory of an organization on track to make exponentially increased contributions to American national security. On behalf of the Board of Directors, Amanda Mason presented Chris with a custom-forged hammer adorned with the MCPA logo and the inscription, “Whoever holds this hammer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of the National President”. The hammer, inspired by the MCPA’s Order of Thor medal, which in turn was inspired by Thor’s Mjölnir, serves as a reminder that cyberspace is a tool with the power to both build and destroy. He then delivered his vision for the future to shape the MCPA in the coming years. The announcement added an extra layer of excitement to an already vibrant evening.

Image: President Cleary with the presidential hammer at the dinner. (MCPA)

The evening continued, as dynamic discussions reverberated throughout the venue as attendees engaged in thought-provoking conversations and consequential networking. The annual dinner serves as a melting pot of ideas, providing numerous opportunities for the Board of Advisors to forge meaningful connections across the broader community. In addition to Advisors, other top contributors to the MCPA were in attendance and recognized, including volunteers and sponsors. 

As the emcee for the evening, I had the honor of imparting encouraging words on how everyone is entrusted in the future of MCPA, an organization which has clearly carved out a critical and growingly central role in the military cyber community…

“Tonight, we are inviting you to invest in a shared vision, a collective effort to fortify the digital realms we navigate daily. Each contribution, whether it’s your insights, skills, or connections, completes the picture and the impact we can make together. We’re asking for your commitment to be part of something greater than the sum of its parts. Your involvement, in whatever form, is an invaluable contribution to a more secure and connected future for MCPA.”

This annual event was generously hosted, again, by the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school in downtown Washington, DC focused on national security, intelligence, and diplomacy. Looking ahead, we chart the course for another year of progress and collaboration. Anticipation builds for HammerCon 2024, slated for May 16 at Capitol Technology University. As a National Gold Sponsor of the MCPA that hosts our national convention, they also offer significant tuition discounts to MCPA members, saving community members hundreds of thousands of dollars and unlocking opportunities and success. The continued support of academia, as well as a growing number of notable sponsors, serves as a reminder that the MCPA is a team effort.

About the Author

Major David “Ronnie” Bustamante is a Cyber Warfare Officer in the Virginia Army National Guard. In the MCPA, he is the Chief of Staff and member of the Board of Directors.