LSUS students Eliana Gafford and Joseph Barnes sign their intention letters for the National Security Fellowship with the Air Force Global Strike Command on Barksdale Air Force Base. The students are joined by representatives from LSUS, Louisiana Tech Research Institute and the Cyber Innovation Center. (Courtesy of LSUS)

By LSU-Shreveport Public Relations

SHREVEPORT, La. – LSUS students Eliana Gafford and Joseph Barnes became the first Pilots selected for the National Security Fellowship Program with Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

The National Security Fellowship is a year-long program in which fellows lend their skills in computer science, mathematics, and other related fields to assist the Air Force in generating solutions to real-world problems.

The fellowship program is a cooperative effort between Global Strike Command, the Cyber Innovation Center (CIC), and the Louisiana Tech Applied Research Corporation (LTARC).

“Part of our goal in the Cyber Innovation Center and STRIKEWERX is to identify local talent in northwest Louisiana and bring that talent to Barksdale AFB to help solve challenges for Global Strike Command,” said Robin Nichols, CIC project manager. “This is an incredible opportunity, and we look forward to having both of you in the Fellowship Program.”

Both Gafford and Barnes have strong family ties to the military, which prompted them to apply for the fellowship program.

“I wanted to help Airmen and help my country,” said Gafford, a computer science junior with double concentrations in digital interactive design and software development. “My dad was in the U.S. Army and I have a friend in the Marines. I wanted to serve my country, and I’m happy to help in any way, shape or form that I can.”

Barnes is a mathematics major with computer science interest whose brother is serving overseas in the Air Force.

“(Airmen) out there have it really tough, and I’d love to have a hand in using technology to assist them and make their lives a little bit easier,” Barnes said. “I have a lot of family and friends who have served in different branches of the military, and it’s an honor to serve my country in this way.”

Gafford and Barnes are part of the fourth year of fellows in the program. Louisiana Tech University students filled the slots the first two years with the addition of Grambling State University in the third year and LSUS this year.

The fellowship is paid with undergraduates earning $25 per hour.

But even more valuable is the exposure to an industry of growing importance.

“Students gain valuable experience and exposure to solving real-world problems,” said Dr. Urska Cvek, an LSUS computer science professor who was central to adding the University to the partnership. “This generation being exposed to what we have to defend ourselves against is different that what it used to be.

“We have to develop a workforce to be able to support that, and we’re very interested in having partners like these.”

The National Security Fellowship begins June 3 with the students working full-time this summer and then part-time as they resume classes in the fall and spring semesters.

The Cyber Innovation Center fosters collaboration among its partners and accelerates technology, research and development to support the needs of Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. STRIKEWERX is an innovation arm of the CIC and AFGSC that connects people across government, industry and academia.

The AFGSC, headquartered at Barksdale AFB, is responsible for two-thirds of the United States’ nuclear arsenal with the intercontinental ballistic missile wings and the Air Force’s entire bomber force.