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NEWS | Dec. 27, 2022

Army Reserve Cyber Protection Brigade represents Army Reserve in SANS annual NetWars DoD Services Cup Cyber Competition 2022

By Capt. Jevon Thomas U.S. Army Reserve Cyber Protection Brigade

The Army Reserve Cyber Protection Brigade represented the U.S. Army Reserve in the SANS NetWars DoD Services Cup Championship during Dec. 15 – 16, 2022, in Washington D.C.

ARCPB sent the Netrunners, a “pickup” team of 10 talented Cyber Soldiers from across its Cyber Protection Teams. The team was split into teams A and B where team A competed in the Service Cup competition and team B competed in the Core competition. Team A placed 7th and team B placed 5th.

SANS Netwars is a cyber range that poses a series of multifaceted, interactive, and situational cybersecurity challenges. The challenges test a wide variety of disciplines and subject matter across five levels that increase in difficulty.

The annual SANS NetWars DoD Services Cup Championship is a unique event tailored exclusively to members of the U.S. Department of Defense. A service member & VIP Reception was held prior to the start of the competition, which featured Brigadier General Teri Williams, Vice Director of Operations (Cyber), NGB J-3/6, and Ed Skoudis, SANS Fellow, Author, and Chief Range Architect. They were both key speakers and remained to observe the competition first-hand.

The Netrunners faced off against representatives from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Air Force Reserve, U.S. National Guard, U.S. Space Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy Reserve, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. National Guard placed 1st, winning the Service Cup Trophy.

“I think the SANS event was a great opportunity for our Cyber Soldiers to compete against service members across the DoD. Although we didn’t win (this time) the team had the opportunity to hone their skills and learn valuable lessons to assist them in defending against our adversaries,” said Lt. Col. Eric Booker, Deputy Cyber Director for 335th Signal Command (Theater).

This was the Netrunners' first year competing in the event. Despite the lack of specific experience with the tournament, they were still able to perform at a high level during the competition. CPT 182’s Capt. Lisa Hozey, Netrunners Officer in Charge, contributes their performance to the team’s mindset, talent, and desire to compete.

“Most of the folks present had experience with other Capture-the-Flag events, but a lot of success with these comes down to being curious, humble, managing time, and being patient with yourself. Is there another way to approach the problem you haven’t considered? Are you willing to ask for help from your team? At what point do you shift gears to a different flag if you’ve run into a wall? Is it a small syntax error keeping you from getting a step further? From observation, everyone there had these core skills and it contributed to us having a pretty great showing. On top of that, everyone is massively talented, wanted to be there and [they] were all on board to do the best they possibly could. That mentality goes a long way,” remarks Hozey.

As stated by Hozey, the team is massively talented. Army Reserve Cyber Soldiers obtain various and one-of-a-kind training from both military and civilian employment. The Netrunners team is composed of members with wide-ranging certifications, such as GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Information Systems Security Professional, and more. Jobs include full-time military service, Security Analyst, Senior Penetration Tester, Information Systems Security Officer, as well as other professions.

When asked what contributed to his success during the competition, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matt Marinas from CPT 185 credited his training and experience.

“[It was] a lot of the knowledge learned from CCTC, DCI, CTE, certifications, knowledge, and skills learned from having been in the career for so many years,” said Marinas.

ARCPB is fully composed of personnel with unique skills and experiences due to their additional training and work within the civilian sector. This event provided ARCPB the opportunity to display its ability to identify those unique and complementary skills within its CPTs to efficiently build a team capable of effectively accomplishing a wide array of mission challenges the unit may face in a real-world scenario.