NEWS | May 5, 2017

Guard and Reserve Soldiers team up for cyber defense

By Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez U.S. Army Reserve Command

Technological advances are happening on a daily basis. Every day, new operating systems, programs or servers go up, creating new challenges in the cyber environment.

In order to stay ahead of this ever-shifting threat, service members and civilian organizations have to learn how each other operates.

Exercise Cyber Shield 17 is a National Guard exercise held in cooperation with U.S. Army Reserve that is providing Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from 44 states and territories the opportunity to test their skills in response to cyber-incidents in a multi-service environment.

“What Cyber Shield allows us to do is to share and collaborate in regards to tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Maj. Patrick Wicker, Detachment 4 Commander, for the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Army Reserve Element based out of St. Louis, Missouri and DISA-ARE Blue Team Lead.

This two week training exercise took place at Camp Williams, Utah, from April 23 to May 5, 2017, and it involved more than 800 service members and civilians.

The first week of CS-17 provided training and certifications for participants, while the second week tests the Blue Team’s ability to identify and react to cyber threats inserted by the Red Team to test their cyber response skills.

Cyber Soldiers assigned to the 335th Signal Command (Theater) and its subordinate units served in several roles during the exercise.

Some of their cyber protection teams supported the Colorado and Indiana National Guard Blue Teams. While assigned to those teams, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers worked together to provide cyber support for assigned mission partners or civilian agency.

While working with the states, the Soldiers were evaluated to determine their level of expertise by members of the White Team from the Army Reserve 75th Training Command, Gulf Division, Birmingham, Alabama.

“This training helps the service members get smarter,” said Maj. Michael Ehrstein, Air National Guard cyber space information team chief for the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron out of McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas and the CS-17 Red Team Lead. “From day one, I've asked them, ‘are you smarter today than you were yesterday?’ The bad guys are getting smarter every day and we if aren't doing that, if we don't have that same enthusiasm for the cyber world, we're going to fall behind.”

The 335th Signal Command also provided subject matter experts in several other elements in the exercise. These included the Red Team adversaries, White Team evaluators, and lawyers supporting the judge advocate elements.

Part of the intent for CS-17 is to improve the collaboration between Army National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve and mission partners such as Department of Homeland Security, FBI, State Fusion Centers and industry partners.

“From training in a multi-service environment, everyone can walk away with different perspectives,” said Ehrstein. “We get to share information and get exposed to how civilian organizations approach cyber and vice versa.”

Another goal of this training exercise is to develop stronger relationships not only between mission partners and the National Guard units, but also with the Army Reserve.

“Here, the Reserve Soldiers get a better understanding of what it’s like to work with the National Guard in the event a state requests support from the Department of Defense,” said Capt. Aaron Brunck a CS-17 Red Team Leader and cyber planner assigned to the 335th Signal Command (Theater) out of East Point, Georgia. “This is important because this way each component not only understands how to integrate successfully to complete the mission, but also becomes aware of the boundaries they have to abide by.”

Cyberattacks are happening on a constant basis and training events such as these develop Soldier's skills to be a ready force for the defense of the nation’s electronic infrastructure.