FORT GEORGE G MEADE, Md. (NNS) - Cmdr. Deb Yusko, the commanding officer of Cyber Strike Activity 63, was born and raised in a small steel town in Ohio. She grew up in a military family. However, a military career was not always an obvious path for her.
“My father was a reservist for the majority of my childhood, so I remained in the same house while growing up. He was a recruiter, but he did not outright recruit me,” she said.
It was during her senior year of high school that she decided to give the Navy a chance.
Yusko admits that she applied to the Naval Academy to see if she would be accepted.
“Sometimes you just take a chance and you want to see if you can make it. You want to see it through and see if it works for you once you try it.” She said once she was accepted, that is when she made her decision to pursue becoming a Naval officer. “I felt a desire to try that path to see if I liked it.”that is when she made her decision to pursue becoming a Naval officer. “I felt a desire to try that path to see if I liked it.”
After graduating from the Naval Academy she was on track to become an aviation officer, until she realized it was a field she was not very passionate about. “I went about two months shy of wings and I did not love aviation. I didn’t feel like it was dynamic enough for me,” she said.
Ultimately, Yusko was able to transfer and become an information warfare officer.
Her first duty station was at Fort Meade, Maryland working in the National Security Operations Center Watch Floor, shortly after the terrorist events on Sept. 11, 2001. She directly supported Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“It was intense; it was a steep learning curve, because the intelligence that needed to be delivered was of critical importance,” she said.
Reflecting on her career, Yusko has also thought a lot about the challenges women face in the Navy, and in leadership. She said she has rarely felt like the odd woman out, but realizes women are still very much in the minority in the armed forces.
“I have always been well supported, well mentored, and pleased with my career and opportunities, but I occasionally look around the room and count the number of women to men in terms of ratio,” she said. “I’ve often found myself in the smaller number. I think it is important to hold others to a high standard in terms of how they address people so that it’s inclusive and so that opportunities are fair and based on merit.”
One influential woman in her life is her maternal grandmother. Yusko describes her as a confident, inspiring woman she greatly admires.
“I have a picture of her and it’s just her laughing, carefree with some of her girlfriends. She reared her family, she worked in industry and she just brought me up with an understanding that I was valued and that I could do anything.”
Cyber Strike Activity 63 provides and deploys trained personnel, expertise, and equipment to support offensive cyberspace operations and defensive cyberspace operations for U.S. Cyber Command and the Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) and conducts cyberspace operations in support of assigned defend the nation missions as directed by commander, CNMF.
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