Samuel Plummer

Coast Guard Veteran Goes from Blue Skies to Cyber Shadows 

By Denise Schiavone

Samuel Plummer served a decade in U.S. Coast Guard’s aviation field before discovering an unexpected career interest: cyber. As one of MITRE’s summer interns, the veteran-turned-college student is exploring his new passion.

During the early days of COVID-19, Samuel Plummer received a Cash App request from his roommate for $300 to help pay for groceries. The plea from the familiar username, along with a promise to pay back the money, didn’t seem extraordinary. And Plummer empathized with his friend’s financial bind.

But after hitting “Transfer,” he heard his roommate in the kitchen—and knew he’d been scammed.

A Coast Guard avionics electrical technician at the time, Plummer had no cybersecurity skills or experience. The unfortunate event ignited his interest in the field. He applied for the Coast Guard’s then-brand-new cyber job specialty. Then medical circumstances forced Plummer, with 10 years of service under his belt, to separate from active duty.

At a crossroads in terms of career options, he decided to start fresh and explore his newfound interest. He joined Florida International University’s cybersecurity program in January. (Due to a recent relocation, he’ll continue his studies online at SANS Technology Institute.) When the opportunity for an internship arose, Plummer jumped at it.

MITRE offered the chance to learn various paths in cyber. In such a broad field, I wanted to see what different roles have to offer.

Samuel Plummer

The front-running companies came down to two, including MITRE. After doing some research, he found our established reputation in cyber a big draw.

“MITRE also offered the chance to learn various paths in cyber,” he adds. “In such a broad field, I wanted to see what different roles have to offer.”

Plummer is making the most of the Cyber Futures program. The curriculum for early college students blends education, skills building, and exposure to cybersecurity career paths. 

He’s also motivated to learn as much as possible outside of school and work. “I earned seven qualifications in an IT certification boot camp,” he says. “And I do a lot of independent research and study at home.”

Though he didn’t have the opportunity to venture into the Coast Guard’s cyber job specialty, the former non-commissioned officer has still put his service experience to use at MITRE. His current project involves identifying vulnerabilities to help protect aircraft from cyberattacks.

Dismantling Hacks to See What Makes Them Tick

As he gained exposure to specific cyber tracks, Plummer began narrowing his interests. During the internship’s three-week orientation, he participated in a demo version of our capture-the-flag competition. And he met MITRE cyber engineer Emmanuel Adewale, whom he considers a mentor.

A member of our Cyber New Professionals Program, Adewale helped introduce Plummer’s cohort to some of the more stimulating aspects of the field.

Adewale spoke about his college project developing a Red Team/Blue Team exercise, where he established a program to emulate the “bad guys.” His academic assignment became something much bigger as people reached out requesting he set up the program for their cyber competitions.

“I shared that story because I wanted to relate to the interns at a level they could really grasp—about something they might be interested in doing themselves at some point,” he says.

Adewale checks in on several of the Cyber Futures participants he met this summer. “I think it makes a difference if they have somebody who shows an interest.”

For Plummer, it did indeed make a difference. Adewale also exposed him to the concept of reverse engineering, the process of examining a file or application to understand a breach—and prevent it in the future.

It’s a technique Plummer plans to learn more about. “I love understanding how things work and analyzing why they function the way they do,” he explains. “I could see myself in that career track in the future.”

Beyond the technical skills he’s acquiring, the military veteran appreciates the camaraderie he’s encountering in his post-service civilian job. With most of his fellow interns considerably younger than him, he enjoys sharing about his experiences.

“Dad jokes aside, they seem to appreciate my stories.”

To learn more about the Cyber Futures Program, contact

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