Cyber troops test knowledge, skills against realistic adversary

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An 11-day U.S. Cyber Command exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., this month integrated cyber professionals from across the Defense Department to test their knowledge and skills against a realistic adversary on a closed network.

In the third annual Cyber Flag exercise, joint, combined and interagency forces fused cyber defense and offense skills across the full spectrum of operations, Cybercom officials said. These forces applied new and developing tactics, techniques, and procedures for the cyber mission force and coalition teams, which officials said will ultimately enable cyberspace operators to rapidly detect, assess, mitigate, and respond in real time to cyber threats to DOD networks.

“Everyone who took part in this exercise did a stellar job,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jon M. Davis, Cybercom’s deputy commander. “These professionals successfully integrated our offensive and defensive [tactics, techniques, and procedures] against the simulated adversary forces, and were able to adjust quickly to changes in the adversaries’ game plans to accomplish our mission.”

This year’s Cyber Flag marks the first time all components of the cyber mission force construct, which includes command and control through Joint Force Cyber Headquarters elements, as well as tactical teams, exercised as a cohesive force.

The cyber mission force, which is being built over a period of three years, is designed to accomplish three separate mission areas: national mission teams to defend the nation by seeing foreign adversary cyber activity, blocking attacks, and maneuvering to defeat them; combat mission teams to support combatant commander priorities and missions; and cyber protection teams to defend DOD information networks and improve network security, officials explained.

“It was great having the [cyber mission force] take part in this exercise,” said Air Force Col. George Lamont, Cybercom’s director of training. “They add a new level of capability to the force, and provided us valuable lessons and insights to improve training in the future. It was exciting to see these new forces in action.”

Cyber Flag also challenged command and control mechanisms to both employ and support simulated capabilities from the air and maritime domains.

“Cyber is inherently joint and critical to the execution of the missions in other domains,” Lamont said. “Being able to exercise with the understanding that cyber affects the full spectrum of operations around the world is hugely important.”

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin G. Slater, senior enlisted leader for Cybercom and the National Security Agency, said the exercise would not have been successful without the excellent work of the participants and support.

“There was an exponential advancement of this year’s exercise in terms of depth and breadth of complexity and realism,” Slater said. “We recognized some outstanding performers from across all grades and services, to include our logistics help and the opposing force teams who ensured this exercise was challenging and realistic.”

(Courtesy U.S. Cyber Command Public Affairs)