SA shares experiences as symposium panelist

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • OSI Public Affairs

To say Information Technology has played a key role in the professional development of Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Helen Landwehr would be an understatement.

Since her graduation from the Air Force Academy in 2020, as a Distinguished Graduate majoring in Computer Science, the OSI Detachment 402, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas SA began conducting criminal felony level investigations and operations in 2022.

Sandwiched between those assignments Landwehr attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a military fellow at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory where she earned Master of Science degrees in Technology Policy and Political Science.

At MIT she researched the application of natural language processing models to detect the tactics, techniques and procedures of pro-Kremlin disinformation in European Union on-line news media.

Landwehr’s accomplishments earned her a return visit to USAFA to sit on a panel of recent graduates at the 4th Annual Jean Bartik Computing Symposium (JBCS) hosted by the Department of Computer and Cyber Sciences Feb. 2 and 3, 2023.

According to the USAFA website, “the event brings women and underrepresented minorities from computing disciplines at the services academies together with their computing professional counterparts in the military, government and industry. It seeks to promote fellowship and provide technical training through interactive workshops making them competitive for their future careers in service to the Nation.”  

The symposium’s interactive computing workshops are designed to help build the technical confidence of the participants. The 90-minute workshops cover a range of important areas, such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, cyber security, cryptography, data analysis, Internet of Things and parallel computing.

Landwehr’s takeaway was palpable.

“The event was a great opportunity to discuss the OSI mission with military leaders, industry partners, as well as cadets and midshipmen from every service academy,” she said. “In particular, it was great to hear that OSI detachments are working closely with defensive cyber operators around the Air Force to learn from one another and improve each other's capabilities.”

As a panel member Landwehr shared her transition from cadet life, being a woman/minority in the Air Force, her grad school experience and maintaining a work/life balance, which was gratifying for the USAFA grad.

“I was extremely humbled to be invited to sit on the panel of recent graduates,” she said. “The other panel members were amazing cadets and officers. They have done and are doing great things in the Air Force and Space Force. I was honored to be included.” 

The symposium serves a much needed purpose, because as the USAFA website stated: “Computer Science holds the dubious distinction of being the only STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) major where the representation of women has dropped in the last 30 years, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.”

Landwehr reflected on the symposium fostering the retention of women and minorities in technology majors for roles in government.

“By bringing women and minorities in cyber related career fields together, individuals can see their current and future selves as part of a bigger picture,” she explained. “It’s encouraging to hear from others who are passionate about their work and proud of their heritage. This symposium provided a network of support and encouragement for all the attendees, regardless of where they are in their careers.”

The symposium is named after Jean Bartik, a pioneer of early computing and Army computing. Due to her status as a woman, she did not receive recognition for her important contributions until near the end of her life. She died March 23, 2011. She was 86.

The JBCS seeks to highlight the contributions of those in government and military computing that are not normally recognized and to help us celebrate our rich history.