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Air Force Master Sgt. Jose Alvarado Applies Class Lessons to his Sensitive Military Job

Gil Klein
By Gil Klein
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Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of profiles of Spring 2024 graduates.

At the same time Air Force Master Sgt. Jose Alvarado was studying for a Master of Science in Cyber Security Technology at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), he was leveraging what he learned in his courses to solve real military problems.

Alvarado and his team at Ramstein Air Base were charged with putting up missile defense sensors that would provide alerts about inbound munitions throughout the European theater. His work on the Risk Management Framework (RMF) covered the installation and connectivity of the sensors so everything could be displayed through a single system—and it turned out that a couple of his UMGC courses were hitting hard on the RMF process.

Alvarado found that what he was doing for his class could be applied to his military work, allowing him to complete his RMF tasks much faster.

“I actually had to do it for assignments, and then I would turn around and do it for my program,” Alvarado said, “which expedited our systems.”

Working his way through UMGC master’s program—while on active assignment and during the COVID-19 pandemic—was demanding. At Ramstein, in-person classes had been moved online. At the same time, Ramstein had become the central receiving hub for a flood of Afghan refugees after the sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021.

“Our team was charged with supporting everything from in-processing refugees to providing security to providing food support and donations,” Alvarado said. “That was an overwhelming task of more than five months.”

That work came on top of his regular military duties, he said, and keeping schoolwork up to date.

Alvarado said he could not have handled the stress without the support of his wife, who was completing a master’s degree in social work from Salisbury University, which partners with UMGC at Ramstein. They both graduated this month.

“Luckily, my wife always helped me out and took a lot of other stressors away for me,” he said.  “I just I wanted to thank her for all the support that she gave me because it was a long and incredibly difficult process to complete all the requirements for graduation with all the operational efforts going on during that time.”

Today Alvarado and his wife live in Washington, D.C., and he is assigned to the Pentagon. He serves as senior executive communicator for Air Force General Charles Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Alvarado’s responsibilities put him in charge of all of the communication systems that the chairman uses at the Pentagon or while traveling.

“Whether it's email, phone calls, video calls, you name it, we're in charge of making sure that those happen,” Alvarado said.

His UMUC master’s degree not only is helping Alvarado now, but he is counting on it opening doors when the time comes to leave the military. He said it will help his transition to the kind of work he was doing at Ramstein—cybersecurity—but perhaps in the private sector.