NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas –
Approximately 15 Alaska Air National Guard cyber and computer security specialists honed their skills June 5-17 as part of Cyber Shield 2022, the Department of Defense’s largest unclassified cyber defense exercise involving approximately 800 National Guard cyber specialists as well as law enforcement, legal, government and corporate partners from across the country.
This year’s exercise was conducted at the Army National Guard’s Professional Education Center on Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Service members and civilian experts from 20 states and the U.S. territory of Guam gathered for the exercise.
The Air National Guard members were part of the 168th Wing based in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the 176th Wing stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska.
“Cyber Shield is very real world,” said Master Sgt. Philip Whipkey of the 176th Air Defense Squadron, 176th Wing and Alaska’s deputy blue team lead for the exercise. He said the quality of the exercise and the real-world internet attacks they had to face tested his Airmen.
In addition, the networking was a tremendous value, he said. “We had the ability to interact with the other states and engage with other cyber defense entities – vendors, DCOEs, industry partners – that networking was invaluable.”
The annual Cyber Shield exercise, led by the Army National Guard and assisted by the Air National Guard, is a concentrated effort to develop, train and exercise cyber forces in the areas of computer network internal defensive measures and cyber incident response, according to the National Guard Bureau. These cyber defensive measures can be employed to defend and protect critical cyber infrastructure including industry, utilities, schools, health care, food suppliers as well as military networks.
“Cyber warfare is not just our future — it is our contemporary reality,” said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau during an April U.S. Cyber Command summit. “The National Guard is positioned to be leaders in the digital domain and continues to enhance our nation’s cyber capabilities in combat and in the homeland.
“With 4,000 National Guard cyber operators across 40 states, many working for leading tech companies, the National Guard has the knowledge, skills and abilities to play a critical role in the DOD’s cyber enterprise,” he added.
Cyber Shield 22 brings together the nation’s top cyber defense professionals from National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to various governmental, nongovernmental and high-tech partners. This year’s exercise also involves teams from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Effective cyber defense requires unclassified collaboration across multiple partners, said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard and a master cyberspace officer.
“We all need to be talking about these attacks and where they are coming from. To do that requires effective relationships and communications across all levels of government as well as the private sector.”
Neely said that many of those professional relationships the National Guard shares with its partners in cyber defense “all began at a Cyber Shield.”
“The Cyber Shield exercise is a great model,” said Capt. Cumah Blake of the Minnesota Army National Guard. “The exercise pulls together an integrated team of experts, not just cyberspace experts. It addresses not just cyberspace operations in a vacuum, but how do you pull together other members of your team and make those missions successful.”