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NEWS | Nov. 14, 2017

Soldiers back home after combating cyber threats in Southwest Asia

By Sgt. Erick Yates Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group

A U.S. Army Reserve cyber group hosted a Welcome Home Warrior Citizen ceremony Nov. 5 for Soldiers recently deployed to Southwest Asia at the Tech. Sgt. Vernon McGarity U.S. Army Reserve Center in Coraopolis, Pa.

Soldiers from the North Central Cyber Protection Center (NCCPC), Detachment 56, deployed to the Regional Cyber Center - Southwest Asia (RCC-SWA), Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for Cyber Defensive Operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Spartan Shield. Detachment 56 is part of the Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group (ARCOG), 335th Signal Command (Theater).

Fellow Soldiers, Families and unit leaders welcomed home Detachment 56. Many special guests attended the event including the ARCOG Commander, Col. Robert S. Powell, Jr. and Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Eddy, the ARCOG’s senior enlisted Soldier. Command Sergeant Major of the 335th SC (T), Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Farmer, U.S. Rep. Keith J. Rothfus from the 12th District of Pennsylvania, and Fred J. Fair, Army Reserve ambassador to Pennsylvania also attended.

Rothfus and Fair spoke to the Soldiers during the ceremony.

“It’s great to be here this morning and celebrate with you,” Rothfus said, as he acknowledged both the service members and families for their service and support during the deployment process.

Fair, also recognized the families for their service and support.

“Families make sacrifices we don’t see and sometimes don’t hear,” Fair said.

He encouraged the returning Soldiers to continue building the warrior citizen partnership with their employers.

For the immediate future, the ARCOG will continue providing elements for deployment rotations and building its Army Reserve cyber force by putting aggressive strategies in place for education and recruitment.

Staff Sgt. Keith Surmick and Sgt. Ethan Riley, network operations analysts who deployed with the detachment, shared their deployment experience and the commitment it takes to be part of a rapidly growing cyber force.

"We both came back with cyber security certifications,” said Riley, who has a master's degree in Cyber Forensics from Robert Morris University, and works in the field for the Department of Defense in the D.C. area.

He expressed how important it was to take advantage of the available learning for professional development during the deployment.

Surmick, who also has a master’s degree from Robert Morris, in Information Systems Management and works in information security for Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in the Pittsburgh area added, “When it comes to security and critical assets to the warfighter down range, it’s essential to keep improving cyber and network skill sets on an individual level."

Both Soldiers, have been with the NCCPC for several years, said the sense of familiarity with their peers because of the length of time they had together added an understanding of working in a high-level environment of how to best use the teams cyber and network abilities.

“The deployment provided a tremendous growth opportunity for our team,” said Maj. Tomas D. Filipiak, who served in multiple leadership roles during the deployment including detachment commander.

“One of the most important things our team focused on during our RCC-SWA rotation was to build relationships with stakeholders in theater for a better understanding of how to effectively integrate our cyber protection team during future missions,” Filipiak said.