Sierra Vista, AZ: Where History, Education And Nature Converge

A tech-ready workforce and leading-edge education are shaping Sierra Vista, AZ.

By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2019 Issue

Located along the foothills of southeast Arizona’s Huachuca Mountains, an impressive blend of history, education and nature converge to produce an exceptional opportunity.

Sierra Vista, thanks to adjacent Fort Huachuca, is woven from nearly a century-and-a-half of strategic missions, technical communications and intelligence operations. With readily available office space and buildable land, this up-and-coming community is ready to meet today’s critical demand for educated, tech-centric professionals.

Sierra Vista, Arizona

Fort Huachuca’s strategic missions are staffed by thousands of soldiers who perform skilled technical tasks. Approximately 700 professionally trained solders transition from Fort Huachuca to the civilian workforce annually, providing a valuable workforce: trained, skilled professionals ready to put their skills to work in fields such as electronics, engineering, network operations, security, technical interoperability, intelligence, and cyber operations. And former military personnel bring an added value to the workplace, particularly for businesses seeking candidates for sensitive positions. Here, corporate recruiters can find applicants with clean records, high physical standards, demonstrated ability to follow instruction, and ability to obtain clearances.

With five higher education institutions located in Sierra Vista, a highly skilled, educated workforce offers another business advantage.

Located adjacent to nationally-recognized Cochise College, University of Arizona Sierra Vista boasts one of the nation’s top Cyber Operations programs. The National Security Agency designated U of A’s Cyber Operations program as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations—a designation shared by only 20 cyber programs in the nation. Unique to the U of A Sierra Vista program is its approach to cyber security, encompassing defensive as well as offensive positions. The program takes a 360-degree, hands-on training through a forensics lab, a malware sandbox, an Internet of Things lab, and CyberApolis, a virtual city with a 3D GUI with network attack map, 15,000 virtual and unique residents, an underground hacker community, an organized crime element, entity and data relational linkages, and activity patterns.


Sierra Vista is a leader in the cyber security industry. From education to industry, government to military, multiple sectors of sierra Vista’s economy are participating in the growing cyber industry–and growing Sierra Vista’s role as a cyber security cluster.

Businesses that have been serving the Department of Defense and looking to diversify their business in areas not tied to the defense sector may qualify for grant funds through the Technical Assistance Program. Learn more.

As the headquarters of the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) 9th Signal Command and hosting the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca is at the cutting edge of Army’s growing cyber security missions. NETCOM is a major subordinate of the U.S. Army Cyber Command located in Fort Gordon, Georgia and is key to ensuring the Army’s global network enterprise is maintained and protected. The Fort also hosts the Army Intelligence Center and teaches the doctrine, procedures and skills for the intelligence support to all cyber operations in the Army and Department of Defense. Battles are not only fought with soldiers and weapons, as threats to the nation’s electronic information are becoming more and more prevalent cyber warfare is critical to future success. As a result, NETCOM, the Army Intelligence Agency and the many civilian contractors in Sierra Vista that support the Army’s cyber security efforts are more critical now than ever before.

The University of Arizona South launched a Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Operations from the Sierra Vista campus in 2016. The Center offers a Bachelors of Applied Science (BAS) degree that incorporates learning, research, certificates, and internships. The curriculum is currently undergoing National Security Agency (NSA) accreditation. When received, the University be one of the handful of learning institutions that are accredited by the NSA.

With the benefit of starting from the ground up, the University developed a cutting edge learning atmosphere. Its platform incorporates a virtual environment that includes a cloud-based computing network and a database mimicking the digital footprint of a virtual community called CyberApolis with some 15,000 residents and a web presence for businesses, utilities, and government agencies, plus social media activity for each of the residents. CyberApolis is fundamental to the development of innovative hands-on coursework designed around network protection, hacking, and cyber forensics.

Additionally the University houses a multi-locational Internet of Things (IOT) lab. With three separate sites, data feeds into the lab to allow students and businesses to work together to conduct research. Forensic labs and a Capture the Flag arena are also incorporated.

Cochise College has been delivering information security and cyber security-related curriculum for over a decade via their Associates of Applied Science degree in Cyber security. The two-year degree offers classes to prepare students to enter the cyber security workforce or continue on to a bachelor’s program. In addition to fundamental courses, students take heavily hands-on classes in Scripting, Linux, Mobile Security, Network Defense, Computer Forensics, and Practical Applications in Cyber security. The College maintains three advanced technical labs and partners closely with the University of Arizona South. Cochise College hosts one of the Internet of Things (IOT) labs.

In Sierra Vista, cyber security education starts early. The local CyberPatriot teams routinely punch above their weight class in the Air Force Association’s annual network defense competition ever since the Buena High School team finished second in the nation in 2010. Since then, local schools have led the state in fielding highly-performing CyberPatriot teams at both the high school and middle school levels. Cochise College has taken an active role in mentoring students interested in the cyber field. Each year, the community’s Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) Club sponsors a competition called Computer Challenge (formerly Computer Olympics). High school, middle school, and elementary school students from the Cochise County area compete to see who is the best of the best. In the summer, Cochise College also hosts cyber camps for the area students, training them in cyber along with creating an environment of ethical hacking.

The cyber security field relies on certificated programs to gauge competency in the field. The University of Arizona along with Advance Business Learning (ABL) support these requirements. Both provide programs in Sierra Vista. The University of Arizona offers information assurance, security, networking and other aspects of Information Technology along with personalized courses built specifically for industry requirements. Advance Business Learning offers course in cyber security, leadership, sales, and customer service.

At 4,300 feet, Sierra Vista is located where high desert and high mountains meet, creating a climate and topography that bucks stereotypical Arizona perceptions. Sierra Vista enjoys four seasons and still averages 284 sunny days each year. With an average daytime temperature of 77 degrees, outdoor activities are a must—and the nearby Huachuca Mountains and San Pedro National Riparian Area deliver, offering a canvas for hiking, bicycling, and wildlife watching.

Residents and visitors alike take advantage of Sierra Vista’s year ‘round climate, accessing the 30-plus miles of shared use paths and easy access to mountain trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Sierra Vista is just a short drive (head east or west) from Arizona’s two major wine-producing regions, national monuments, and neighboring communities like Tombstone, Bisbee and bustling Tucson.