Kentucky and Alabama combined forces for Cyber Shield ‘17

By:  Maj. Carla A. Raisler, Team Chief, Joint Forces Headquarters Defensive Cyber Operations Element

Members of Kentucky and Alabama National and Air Guard trained together on cyber security during Cyber Shield 17 at Camp Williams, Utah, April 24 to May 5, 2017, at Camp Williams, Utah. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bethany Anderson)

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah — Members of the Kentucky and Alabama National and Air National Guard combined forces for the Cyber Shield ‘17 National Level exercise at Utah National Guard Readiness Center at Camp Williams, for two weeks of cyber security training, April 23 through May 5, 2017.

The combined team included members from both states’ Defense Cyber Operations Element and Cyber Protection teams.

Each of the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia have a DCO-E and many states are now standing up CPTs. These teams consist of Soldiers and Airmen with skills in both traditional signal and emerging cyber security. The combination of these skillsets brings together diverse teams that are able to quickly respond to an array of offensive and defensive measure to protect both government and civilian computer networks.

Chief Warrant Officer 3, Harold Brandenburg, Senior Information System Technician with the Kentucky National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Element, has been working to maintain and defend computer networks for 30 Years.

“I started working as a mainframe computer operator with the Airforce in 1985,” said Brandenburg. “After that, I went on to college, joined the Kentucky National Guard, and am currently a network administrator for Archer Daniels Midland Company.”

The exercise gives Brandenburg the opportunity to combine his civilian and military experiences.

“The best thing about the exercise is the training and how it directly applies to what we would see in real world incidents,” said Brandenburg. “Cyber security is a growing concern and the more I know the better I can protect my civilian employer’s network.”

Every member of the DCO-E and CPT are traditional Guard Soldiers with civilian jobs. Capt. Jason Baum, Flight Commander Operations Flight, 232nd Combat Communications Squadron, who works as Security Information Analysts at Auburn University was the Battle Captain for the exercise.

“As the Battle Captain, I make sure everyone has direction, assignments, and stays on task,” said Baum. “It can become very chaotic and stressful when the team is responding to active network attacks. So it’s my job to set the tone and help direct the team towards mission success.”

Members of Kentucky and Alabama National and Air Guard worked together to respond to simulated network attacks during Cyber Shield ’17 at Camp Williams, Utah, April 24 – May 5, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Col. Anthony Sims)

For the majority of participants, the exercise directly relates to their civilian career. For Baum, the exercise provides him the experience of conducting blue team response actives in a training environment which apply directly to his job at Auburn

“This exercise trains our team in current day threat analysis, which is exactly what I need to know for my civilian job,” said Baum.

For many members of the combined KY/AL team, this was their first year attending the event. Staff Sgt. Andrew Spafford, Information Technology Specialist, Joint Force Headquarters DCO-E Alabama National Guard, spent a week training on tools of the trade.

“I was able to take Python, Cisco, Spyder Sense, PowerShell and other classes” said Spafford, “The best part of the training was that we were learning things that are current unlike tactical signal from the 80’s. This training was relevant to anyone that has a job working on computers and is applicable to the civilian market.”

In addition to uniformed members of the Army and Air National Guard, civilian mission partners were invited to participate in the event to help build relationships with civilian counterparts in the technology industry. Mission partners from across the civilian sector worked directly with the teams to help build cohesive military partnerships that bridged the gap and produced a shared understanding of how the National Guard can assist in incident response.

Most people understand how the National Guard responds to natural disasters. Cyber incidents to state’s critical computer network infrastructure can bet disasters too, and the National Guard is uniquely prepared to respond due, in part, to exercises like Cyber Shield.