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Joint Base Cape Cod Becomes Cyber Battlefield

Over the course of four days earlier this month, two teams comprising a mix of National Guardsmen and civilian experts worked in front of computer screens, one trying to preserve New England s digital infrastructure, the other disrupting it. The scenario playing out at Joint Base Cape Cod was straightforward: Boston, having won the opportunity to host an event on par with the Olympics, was now a target. Everyone from hacktivists to well-trained and well-financed agents of foreign governments was hellbent on proving Beantown couldn t handle the limelight. Disruptions could range from defacing websites to shutting down power grids.

Known as exercise Cyber Yankee, the simulation partnered National Guard cyber network defense teams from across New England with local players think utility companies and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to prepare for a real-world situation that, to date, has not occurred in Massachusetts. Military officials describe cyberspace as the fifth domain of warfare, joining land, sea, air and space as a potential battleground. Fighting in this increasingly important realm may not look on its face like combat, but participants in Cyber Yankee regularly made comparisons to traditional concepts. Denial of service attacks, which effectively take down servers, might be a feint while a more serious offensive takes place, for example. And if malicious hackers succeed, consequences could occur in the physical world that the National Guard may be deployed to assist in handling.

Every disaster, every incident, does have a cyber component, said Lieutenant Colonel Woody Groton of the New Hampshire Army National Guard. Cyber is operations… It s not just the IT geeks in the corner anymore.

Military leaders point out the National Guard s advantages in tackling cyber threats. Because it can respond to local emergencies unlike active-duty units its experts can work alongside and in support of private businesses and organizations in weathering a cyber attack. And since most of its members have full-time, civilian jobs, the National Guard can fill the ranks of its digital teams with experts from the private sector, like Lieutenant Colonel Alan J. White, who is employed with Dell SecureWorks when he is not donning his uniform and participating in exercises like Cyber Yankee.

These are citizen soldiers, Lt. Col. Groton said. The National Guard brings a lot of capabilities to bear. [Col. White s] counterpart on active duty doesn t have this level of expertise. Joint Base Cape Cod serves as what military personnel call a schoolhouse for cyber warfare, said Major Glen Kernusky. Members of the armed forces from as far away as Hawaii come to the training facility to sharpen their skills, he said.

Major General Gary W. Keefe, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, said New England leads the way in cyber warfare. It is partially because of the close ties between the region s state governments, he said.

But the area also enjoys a booming technology industry, which presents a double-edged sword to military strategists. On one hand, the region is home to some of the best minds in the field, hailing from its many universities and tech companies. On the other, that concentration of digital assets makes it potentially tempting to bad actors.

It s specifically Massachusetts, in that the Boston area would be a target area, Maj. Gen. Keefe said. When it comes to cyber security, we need more forums like this.

Parpos: A visit to South Middlesex Correctional Center

By Suzanna Parpos

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it. My village is the concentric circles that encompass my world that is, the boy that day-in and day-out steals my heart. My world calls me mom. A year ago, I set out on this incredible journey to learn about those that comprise these concentric circles the agencies the people who day-in and day-out selflessly sacrifice and put their lives on the line to protect my world your world all of our worlds. Some of these circles are more visible than others they re uniformed and on the front [blue] line. Other [concentric] circles are less visible. They are the branch of law enforcement we hear about when those who comprise it are slain, but beyond that, their existence is absent from civilians daily thoughts. Yet, every day, their fearlessness helps to ensure our freedoms.

Last week s headline from Georgia, where two inmates fatally shot two corrections officers, brought visibility to the neglected circle. Those in the communities impacted by the escaped prisoners did what was innate to civilians they retreated indoors and they feared. It s what many of us did locally when James Morales escaped a Rhode Island detention center earlier this year. But what happens is we fear and then we forget when the fugitive is captured and the headline becomes further removed from our memory. We freely go about our daily lives without hindrance, once again. This isn t what it s like for correction officers and correctional program officers. Day-in and day-out, they walk among those that the majority of us would rather not. And depending on the security level of the facility, they walk with handcuffs and a radio but no gun.

To assume they merely just sit around waiting for fights to break out among inmates would be incorrect. That misperception can be attributed to television. I ve told you before about how I am Framingham. And, I candidly admit that in my near four decades, I cannot recall a single time that I thought of the Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities in my town. That is, until last summer when I went on a ride-along with the Framingham Police Department. It was on that 4 p.m. 12 a.m. shift, when day fell into night, that I saw my hometown through different eyes. And in driving by MCI Framingham and South Middlesex Correctional Center, I realized why these facilities were so absent from my thoughts; I realized why I never had to fear the inmates essentially living in my backyard.

It s because of people, like Daniel MacDonald, Correctional Program Officer (CPO) at South Middlesex Correctional Center (SMCC), that I ve been able to overlook SMCC and MCI Framingham (MCI-F) all these years. This isn t to say the aforementioned is right. And this isn t to suggest my existence has been in a bubble. My career in education began in the inner city. I had students in my classroom who were learning to cope with their parents incarceration; I know crime and punishment exists. But what the absence of SMCC and MCI-F from my thoughts exemplifies is the extraordinary commitment of our local law enforcement of how every day the men and women that comprise this far-too-often overlooked circle, or branch of law enforcement, show up and do their job. After getting a civilian s insider perspective from the front lines with the FPD, it was time to see things from the post-arrest perspective. And it s with much appreciation that I thank all those involved with authorizing my visit to South Middlesex Correctional Center (SMCC).

It isn t what your mind pictures. The perimeter of SMCC isn t etched by barbed wire; that world is a stone s throw away at MCI-F. SMCC is a minimum and pre-release prison for female offenders. There are currently 134 inmates the majority of them in minimum security. The near two dozen that are pre-release and eligible to work in the community are watched under close eye. Make no mistake about it, the main goal of the DOC is security and public safety. CPO Daniel MacDonald has been at SMCC for 19 years. He s worn the dual hats that of both security and programming. As the day shift commander, MacDonald is responsible for the assignment of his staff, among other administrative tasks. Yet, he also serves as the volunteer coordinator and field training officer. It s less known to the public, but SMCC offers countless programs, such as being one of the prisons in Massachusetts where America s VetDogs outsources some of its training to inmates who help train the dogs that ll be assigned to veterans based on their specific needs.

And then there is the Family Reunification House. This is an on-site house built in 2008 by male inmates from another prison. As they prepare for life outside the prison, SMCC inmates may be eligible to spend anywhere from two hours to two overnights with their children in this house. After a walk-through of the entire SMCC facility, it s evident that these women are given every opportunity to make a better life for themselves when they are released. That is why MacDonald encourages the offenders to take advantage of the time spent at SMCC. Their living quarters are as expected small. It s a tight space shared bunk beds, a specifically designed see-through television, a bulletin board with some pamphlets tacked on not much else in the bare rooms. There is a decent-sized library for them to utilize; however, there is no internet access on the computers.

SMCC staff strive to ensure all have health insurance when they re released and they re given articles of clothing to start them off as they enter the working world on their own. The walk-through was eye-opening and it must be stated the fact that there was no part of me that felt fear walking among the offenders who were out and about doing such things as getting their laundry. Of course, I was with CPO MacDonald; however, the rules or way of life seemed undeniably understood by the women living at SMCC. Though the established atmosphere is that of teaching and how to better one s self, it s also an environment that still very much holds women accountable for the actions that led to their confinement there. When I asked MacDonald what traits define a successful CPO, he emphasized the importance of understanding mental health and trauma issues because that is often what contributed to the women ending up in prison. Inmates at SMCC can stay anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.

MacDonald is very much aware of his surroundings when he walks the grounds at SMCC; however, that state of hypervigilance doesn t necessarily spill over into the personal lives of correctional program officers there. Perhaps a contributing factor of this is the minimum/pre-release level of security of SMCC. Some outsiders may question the various rehabilitative opportunities provided to the inmates; however, if these women thrive when they return to society, then we all benefit. MacDonald explained how much of his job entails good listening skills and realizing that there really isn t much of a difference between these female offenders and us. Again, the inmates are held accountable, but are also taught. That rang familiar to when a former student of mine questioned whether she d make the same mistakes as her father and end up incarcerated like him. And the words of encouragement I offered that second-grader were, You will make smarter choices because you re learning there are other options.

Does this mean the system is perfect that there ll be no repeat offenders after they re released? We re all human; we all stumble it s just that some of those falls come with much graver consequences than others. And, yes, of course, you can t go around breaking the law. But, sometimes our stumbles aren t law-breaking falls; yet, they still leave us confined, only in a much different way. Whether we re restrained by the words printed in a stack of papers or the secrets we harbor of a group, we all want the same thing: freedom. Life is what you make of it. It s true for us and it ll be true for these female offenders when they return to society.

To those who make every effort to protect the public from criminal offenders who make it possible for me to freely go play ball in the park with my child, thank you. Thank you to the correction officers and correctional program officers, like Daniel MacDonald, who selflessly guard the common center of those concentric circles: my world your world all of our worlds.

Suzanna Parpos can be reached through her website:

Cultural District adding color to downtown Springfield with painted pianos and more (photos)

SPRINGFIELD — Your walk through the downtown area is getting a bit more musical and colorful thanks to the Springfield Central Cultural District. Springfield Central Cultural District has been a nonprofit organization for about a year now. Its plan is to make the downtown area more comfortable and fun to walk around. One of its initiatives is an Aug. 2 pop-up art walk. From 4:30-6 p.m. people can check out art displayed in downtown buildings, attend a jazz concert and even play pianos right outside. All ages are welcome.

Cultural district Director Morgan Drewniany believes art can bring the city together and increase the amount of walking downtown, whether it’s people stopping to look at the painted utility boxes or artwork that school kids have done. Three colorfully painted pianos were recently placed outside One Financial Plaza, the Springfield Public Schools office and the Market Place Shops. The pianos will be there for the public to play until September. Inside the lobby of our schools office, at 1550 Main St., there is also artwork by students at The Springfield Renaissance School.

Megan Scaife, a junior at Renaissance whose drawing can be found in the lobby, said her inspiration came from Barry Moser’s pen and ink drawing titled “Ephialtes,” part of the revered Western Massachusetts artist’s “Inferno” series. In her piece, a self-portrait, Scaife highlighted the forehead and the heart. “My message is that you should always trust your brain and you should always trust your heart. To kind of connect with each other. You shouldn’t just trust one or the other. You should use both to make every decision in your life,” she said. Also in her self-portrait, she’s wearing a butterfly necklace; the necklace can always be found in her drawings. She received the butterfly necklace from her father at the age of seven from The Big E. “I love the whole idea of a butterfly, how it’s in this little cocoon but it transforms into a beautiful butterfly,” she said. “I believe anyone can do that.”

Jack Devlan, who painted the piano found near the Market Place Shops, said, “I just brought down colors and went with it. I used a variety of tools to get my shapes and so forth.”

The piano outside One Financial Plaza, 1350 Main St., was painted by Sheldon Smith. It’s covered with gold seashells — a play on the artist’s first name. On the back of the piano Smith painted his son, Trevian Smith-Figueroa, because that’s who inspired him to do the project and he happens to play the piano.

“Ideas are limitless. … One day he ended up coming down and playing the piano so I figured that should be a feature,” said Smith.

Smith loves the idea of the piano he painted being outdoors for the public to play. He said a security guard told him that a homeless man comes just about every night between the hours of 1-3 a.m. and just plays till he’s tired. Smith believes the project’s goal of bringing people together is exactly what’s happening.

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