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On Friday, July 15, 2022 The Office of the National Cyber Director & the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), recognized the 2021 President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition winners for their outstanding cyber talents. U.S. Marine Corps reservists were a part of this competition, and came in 5th place out of over 250 teams. One member of the team, Sgt. Michael Torres, earned first place overall in the defense portion. (Courtesy Photo: CISA)

Photo by Courtesy Image

Sergeant Torres Receives Top Honors at 2021 President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition

4 May 2022 | Lance Cpl. Mitchell Collyer Marine Corps Forces Reserves

The President’s Cup is a cybersecurity competition that was established in 2019 as mandated by Executive Order 13870, with the intent of identifying, challenging, and rewarding the U.S. government's top cybersecurity talent. This year, there were three sections of the contest: one for defensive security; one for offensive security; and one for teams. U.S. Marine Corps reservists were a part of this competition, and team “PWNIE Express” came in 5th place out of over 250 teams. One member of the team, Sgt. Michael Torres, even earned first place overall in the defense portion.

“Winning first place in a competition like this is validation that I belong in the field,” said Sgt. Michael Torres, a defensive cyberspace operator for 6th Communication Battalion, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve.

Torres was born in Ontario, Canada, but lived the vast majority of his life in San Jose, Calif., where he graduated from Leigh High School. Both of his grandfathers served in the military, with one serving in the Army immediately after the end of WW2 and the other serving in the Navy during the Korean War. He has an uncle who also served in the Navy as a submarine officer. Torres graduated from boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, July 27, 2015.

“Winning first place in a competition like this is validation that I belong in the field”.Sgt. Michael Torres, Defensive Cyberspace Operator, 6th Communication Battalion


“I joined the Marine Corps out of high school out of a desire to challenge myself in a way that may also benefit others,” said Torres. “I was surrounded by smart people working in information technology.”

Torres served as a field wireman on active duty until June 2020. He ended up working for a handful of people that were key in the formation of the first Defensive Cyberspace Operations-Internal Defensive Measures Company in the Marine Corps while at 9th Communication Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force. From there he was able to serve as a defensive cyberspace operator in the Marine Forces Reserves.

“I had no intention of joining the reserves,” said Torres. “I found, however, that while I enjoyed my job, I felt drawn to continuing to make an impact on how the United States Marine Corps views and operates in cyberspace.”

He is currently a Senior Security Engineer at Google, focused on securing network access. He is on the Enterprise Infrastructure Protection Access team. They are specifically focused on securing and controlling network access to all of Google's networks in accordance with zero-trust principles.

“While there’s aspects of cyber operations that are unique to the department of defense,” said Torres, “I’ve learned more about managing planet-scale security systems and processes in my 2 years in the private sector than I’d learned in 4 years in the Marine Corps. This [opportunity] gives me the flexibility I need to meet the Marine Corps requirements and help train the next generation of cyber operators.”

Maj. Kevin Hannay, of PWNIE Express, said “We all really like training opportunities and the ability to keep learning. Especially when this can be worked around our civilian lives.” The civilian background and training of these team members enable strengths and experience that traditional military cyber training simply cannot duplicate.”

Like Torres, Hannay’s passion is evident as he speaks about his participation in the cyber games and working alongside his cyber teammates.

Marine Corps Cyber Security Photo by COMMSTRAT
Marine Corps Cyber Security

“Besides the impressive backgrounds and the deep knowledge we each have developed from our civilian work, I think it is the passion that separates us. All of us are people who are willing to give up our weekends to learn something more and push ourselves to become the best cyber operators we can be.”

The Commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces South, Lt. Gen. David Bellon often calls this fiery passion an “irrational call to service.” No benefit, perk, or financial compensation can validate or justify the time, energy, stress, and hard work involved in sustaining the Marine Forces Reserve. Rather, it is an immeasurable internal drive that motivates Marines such as Team PWNIE Express to continue their dedicated service.

Team PWNIE Express is an example of the effectiveness of talent management across the Marine Corps Forces Reserve and the effort to place high capacity individuals, with specific skillsets, in a strategic position to succeed. In the words of Maj. Hannay, “It is all about the camaraderie. The DCO-IDM (Defense Cyberspace Operations-Internal Defensive Measure) founding Marines are some of the best Marines I have ever worked with.”

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Who We Are: The United States Marine Corps Reserve is responsible for providing trained units and qualified individuals for mobilization to active duty in time of war, national emergency, and crisis or contingency operations. On a day-to-day basis, Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES) consists of a talented and dedicated pool of nearly 100,000 Marines able to augment the Active Component in a myriad of ways, to include operational deployments, support to training, participation in bi/multi-lateral exercises with partner nations and allies, and service-level experimentation in support of Force Design 2030 and refinement of new concepts, tactics, techniques, and procedures.

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