SEA GIRT, N.J. – While infantrymen load their magazines, and pilots check their fuel levels, the service members of the Cyber Protection Team 173 sharpen their skills for a different fight.
Their battlefield can’t be seen or heard, but the cyber warriors trained to defend computer networks from enemy attack at the New Jersey National Guard’s training facility in Sea Girt, New Jersey.
Known as “CPT 173” the joint New York-New Jersey unit, is participating in Cyber Shield 2021; a virtual incident response exercise that gave cyber Soldiers an opportunity to prepare for and react to the types of real world scenarios they would respond to, with Soldiers operating out of both Camp Williams, Utah and Sea Girt, NJ from July 10-24, 2021.
“Anything in our supply chain, from fuel transport, the manufacturing of munitions, or even a power plant can be a target of cyber warfare, and Cyber Shield is how we train to respond to these situations”, said Master Sgt. Jody Doherty, the noncommissioned officer in charge of CPT 173.
The exercise provided an opportunity for approximately 900 participants across the nation, including service members from all branches of the United States military and multiple industry partners to analyze potential threats or vulnerabilities and plan their responses in a coordinated fashion, Doherty added.
At the unit level, Cyber Shield gave CPT 173 a chance to train in a more focused capacity and execute tasks that would not be possible during a regular drill weekend especially with much of their work being done remotely due to COVID-19 concerns.
“This is a special opportunity for us, being able to work side by side and see each other’s faces,” said Spc. Miles Gaitan, a cyber operations specialist assigned to CPT 173. “Our team is a wealth of knowledge, and we all share our skills and assets to get the job done.”
In modern times where technology is rapidly advancing and integrated into every aspect of military operations Cyber Shield has become more important than ever to the readiness of cyber Soldiers, Doherty said.
“You never know when an attack is going to happen, you just know that you need to be ready,” explained Sgt. David Kablan, an information technology specialist assigned to CPT 173 and second-time participant in Cyber Shield. “I think of it almost like a basketball game where we are always on defense, and the offense is targeting whatever weak points they can find.
“We know they are going to try to score, but our goal is to have an answer for any and every shot they take,” Kablan said.
One of the top priorities for this year’s exercise was to add a legal representative to the team due to the sensitivity of the information Soldiers are working with.
Capt. Daniel Baek, the deputy staff judge advocate for 53rd Troop Command, participated in Cyber Shield for the first time and said he was excited to contribute and provide legal advice.
“I try my best to be a force multiplier here, not to stop or slow down the exercise but to make their work as smooth as possible,” Baek said. “My job is to make sure we can still achieve the objective in a legal way.”
These Soldiers make a tremendous sacrifice to be here, as all members of the team are employed within the same fields of work that they practice in the military and some even commuting from outside of the state, Doherty said.
“The team environment we’ve built and commitment to the mission is what keeps me coming back,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Pedro Dominguez, a CPT 173 Soldier who lives in Miami and is operating out of Utah for this year’s Cyber Shield. “In my service career I was searching for a place where I would be able to apply myself fully, and every Soldier on the team is doing exactly that.”
With their talents in such high demand, many of the Soldiers here stay in the unit because of the relationships they have built and their commitment to service, according to Doherty.
“We have a motto here, we train people to leave but we treat them to stay,” said Doherty. “No matter what level an individual is at when they come into the unit they continue to develop their skill sets, and it’s always a joy to watch these Soldiers grow and improve.”
With this the 2021 exercise behind them, the Soldiers will be applying the skills they have polished in both their civilian and military lives to make our digital world safer, said Major Richard Meehan, the team commander.
“We’ve built an elite team, and I could not be more proud of our Soldiers,” Meehan said.
“This is a defensive mission, and our primary weapon is the keyboard,” he added.
|Date Posted:||07.23.2021 12:09|
|Location:||SEA GIRT , NJ, US|
This work, NY National Guard computer security Soldiers hold the digital line during Cyber Shield exercise, by SPC Michael Kerr, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.