Cyber Guard 2014: Maryland Guard Forms a Joint Cyber Team
By Unit Public Affairs Representative
Quantico, Va. (July 2, 2014)–Maryland Guardsmen from the Air’s 175th Network Warfare Squadron, the Army’s 110th Information Operations Battalion, and the Maryland Defense Force participated here in a two-week exercise called Cyber Guard from Jun. 16 through Jul. 2, as one joint team to prepare the state to defend from a cyber attack.
The joint Maryland cyber team had the opportunity to practice tactical level cyberspace operations utilizing a simulated network to test their tools and internal tactics, techniques, and procedures against a world-class opposing force.
“Working with our Air Guard colleagues was definitely one of the highlights of this training. Learning about their capabilities, tools and techniques is critical as we become force multipliers for each other's team,” said Capt. Eric Ruiz, the Maryland Army team lead, describing the benefit of working jointly.
Cyber Guard 14-1 focused on the joint and interagency response to a cyber attack on the homeland. The relationships between the National Guard, the active component, and several other agencies and organizations, such as Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were all exercised.
There were over 550 participants, to include more than 20 states role-playing in a “Title 32” status with a command and control structure under each state’s Governor or a multi-state scenario. In addition, there were newly formed “Title 10” status cyber protection teams, a team from the Army Reserve, and an international reserve team from the United Kingdom participating.
Ruiz explained how this type of exercise can be difficult from a command and control perspective. “One of the challenges for a major exercise like Cyber Guard is that you have multiple partners and leadership echelons that are seeking information during the incident. Teams learn how to communicate efficiently and effectively to accomplish the mission and help others who might need mission critical information.”
More strategic levels of cyber were played out in preparation and during the exercise, which led to the eligibility of “joint credit” for participants. However, the cyber warriors on this Maryland team think the tactical and technical levels are just as important. Sgt. First Class Timothy Byrd and Staff Sgt. William Zimmerman described how they benefited from the forensics analysis training, the exposure to certain tools, and working in the simulated network. According to the team members, these pieces were critical to mission accomplishment during the exercise, for future training, and for real-world situations.
The Maryland Guard joint cyber team held a unique role from the other state teams, according to Air Force Maj. Andrew Wonpat, a cyberspace operations officer in charge of the Maryland scenario build. Most of the other state teams were strictly conducting cyber network defense tasks. The Maryland Team built in forensics analysis tasks to the training plan, said Wonpat, a first for this exercise.
This Maryland Guard joint cyber team also brings different levels of experience from the civilian sector. Ruiz and his Air Guard counterpart relied heavily on the elite civilian cyber expertise and leadership of the Maryland Defense Force brought to the fight during the exercise.
In addition to the Cyber Guard exercise, the Maryland Guard participated in several other training events this year, to include supporting a state agency event and playing on the blue team against local college students at a cyber college challenge event sponsored by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. The Maryland Army Guard also sent a Computer Network Defense team to Cyber Shield 2014 in Little Rock, Ark., in April.
“There are many uncertainties and different philosophies when describing cyberspace and cyberspace operations; however, one thing is certain, this type of cyber forces training must continue,” said Staff Sgt. David Barnhart. “I look forward to future cyber training exercises.”