Army Guard’s Cyber Warriors Protect State and Nation

Much like the Army National Guard has a dual mission to respond to State emergencies and overseas combat missions to support the Nation, the Florida Army Guard’s Defensive Cyberspace Operations Element (DCO-E) works to protect both the Sunshine State and the Nation from cyberattacks. 

As a 255A Information Services Technician for the Florida Army Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Tripp Thompson is assigned to the DCO-E, which is considered a State asset that can also be activated to assist with a national mission. 

Most recently, his group provided cyber support for the State during the national elections in 2016.

“We weren’t the people with our hands on the keyboards, he explains. “We were the ones who would look at things like the network architecture, look at some of the security controls and provide advice.”

The DCO-E has also done joint training exercises with the State of Florida to help employees become more aware of cyber threats and ways to protect themselves.

On the Federal side, CW2 Thompson’s team was on-site in Washington, D.C., in January to support cybersecurity elements during the Presidential Inauguration.

CW2 Thompson likes the challenge of his Guard Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

“I like the technical nature of the work,” he says. “It makes me think.”

CW2 Tripp Thompson

It also aligns with his educational background in computer science and engineering, and his civilian career as a consultant in the information technology field.

But in his 30 years of part-time service in the Guard, CW2 Thompson has worn many different hats. Before his current MOS, he was a logistics officer, an information assurance officer, and a medical service corps officer.

He was already in college when he joined as a way to help pay for school, starting his Guard career as a forward observer in field artillery. He later joined ROTC, which is an elective that allows students to commission straight out of college as a second lieutenant. Even after rising through the ranks to become a major, he essentially took a step backward rank-wise and became a warrant officer in the Guard to avoid mandatory retirement.

“I enjoy what I do, and that just gave me an option to stay longer if I wanted,” he says.

Warrant officers are considered the Guard’s technical and tactical experts, as opposed to an officer like a major or lieutenant who may work in different fields.

“Officers have more of a well-rounded background, whereas warrant officers pretty much find an area and dig in deeply to become more of an SME, or subject matter expert,” says CW2 Thompson.

And for anyone considering getting into the cyber field in the Guard, be assured the Guard does not expect Soldiers to be experts when they join.

“If you’ve got basic computer skills, if you’ve got any programming or scripting skills, and just a general knowledge of networking, we can leverage that, and give you additional training to get you to where you need to be,” says CW2 Thompson.

Some of that training will include industry-specific certifications like Security+ or Certified Ethical Hacker.

Keeping up to speed in the cyber world does mean a “fair amount” of trainings, according to CW2 Thompson, who was headed off to a 2-week cyber exercise consisting of a week of training and a week of defending against simulated cyberattacks.

For an example of what a cybersecurity competition looks like, check out the video below. The Florida Guard’s DCO-E was one of the teams participating in this event, held last year. CW2 Thompson can be seen providing assistance at about the 5-second mark.

 

The DCO-E also has its own “cyber range,” where the Guard can run attacks in a controlled environment and respond to them.

So if you’re interested in becoming a cyber warrior, or are thinking about a career in a different field, the Army National Guard offers more than 150 choices. Visit our job board to search careers by keyword, category or location. And for personal advice, contact your local recruiter, who can also explain the benefits of service like money for college or vocational school

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Twice as Tough

Jenny Shin, who has helped track down criminals working for the Oregon police and scored high marks as a turret gunner in Iraq, brings uncommon grit and a touch of grace to everything she does.

Jenny Shin, Eugene Police DepartmentBefore the sirens arrive and after they’re gone, Jenny Shin is on the job as a records specialist for the Eugene, OR, police department. And though that job involves some long hours, she still finds time to serve as a specialist with the Army National Guard’s B Company, 41st Special Troops Battalion, Military Intelligence, based in Portland, OR.

“Things come up—emergencies, something happened in the field, or the call load gets too heavy—so you end up staying,” Shin says of her civilian work. “A lot of times, I end up pulling a 16-hour shift. I’m on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

In her behind-the-scenes role, her responsibilities include researching criminal activity, working with sworn personnel to process crime-based intelligence, collaborating with detectives on active investigations, processing sex-offender registrations, working with warrants and extraditions, and coordinating with other law enforcement agencies. Coincidentally, her MOS as a human intelligence collector (HUMINT), which requires that she have a Department of Defense top secret security clearance, calls upon many of the same abilities. “It’s a lot of people skills,” she says. “It’s about knowing … what’s going on in my surroundings and trying to find out what is going on if I don’t know.

Both jobs also require flexibility. When she deployed to Iraq in 2009, her company was attached to an artillery unit with the mission of convoy security. She was assigned as a turret gunner—one of the only women to perform this job in her unit—and scored among the top three in the battery for marksmanship. No longer behind the scenes, she completed over 40 combat missions. Although that was outside her intelligence expertise, she says it was “one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.”

To Shin, self-awareness and the awareness of the humanity around you are keys to success. “You need to know yourself before you are able to help others and lead them in the right direction,” she says. “You need to be able to know that this is another human being.” One time, she recalls, a man came into the police building exhibiting abnormal behavior. He said he didn’t want to live and that he had a gun. Shin took him outside, talked to him, and de-escalated the situation before the man was taken into custody.

“I accept the responsibility to take on those challenges … I feel like it allows me to grow, but it also allows me to really see that I can make a difference and that I have a purpose,” Shin says. “I try to do everything to the best of my ability, but beyond that, I try to do things greater than the last time.

“That’s the only way,” she adds, “that I can convey the respect and the loyalty that I have for my Soldiers, for my community, and for the people of this country.”

Story and photo courtesy of GX magazine. GX magazine is an official publication of the Army National Guard.

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Put a Warrant Out for Your Career

Aviation Warrant OfficerIn the Army National Guard, there are four designations that are roughly indicative of the status of your career. The first three are enlisted, enlisted non-commissioned officer (NCO), and commissioned officer. Those three are what happens if your career follows a conventional career path.

The fourth designation, though, allows the right Soldier to step off this linear career path and onto another highly rewarding path less travelled – that of the Warrant Officer.

The Army National Guard Warrant Officer is the next logical step for an enlisted Guard member who wants to become a tactical and technical expert in a specific field and the elite of their chosen military profession. So if you’re more of a generalist, becoming a Warrant Officer might not be the best career path for you. On the other hand, if you excel at one thing, live for it, have a passion for it, and want to continue your military career doing it as a recognized leader in your field, then serving as a Warrant Officer may be your calling.

An interesting parallel can be drawn to consultants in the civilian world. Civilian consultants are highly trained experts who are hired by a company to advise company leadership and teach employees new ways of doing or thinking about things. They are neither the boss, nor are they necessarily rank and file employees. And while they must accept the commands of those who hired them, they are really there in an advisory capacity.

That’s why we ask: What are you best at? Aviation, music, or law enforcement; computers, mechanics, or food service; electronics or supply chains; engineering, ammunition, or weapon systems. You see, there are literally dozens of fields you can pursue part-time as a Warrant Officer in the Army National Guard.

But why? Good question. The simplest answer is that it’s a way to continue growing in the Guard. Let’s face it, not every Soldier aspires to command, which is the career path of the commissioned officer. As a Warrant Officer, Soldiers can move beyond the enlisted ranks without a commission and continue earning rank and respect without moving into a command position. Plus, it provides the opportunity to continue honing skills necessary to remain an expert doing what you do best, be it flying a helicopter or computer science.

Another reason is specializing in a field. Warrant Officers exist apart from the traditional chain of command. They are still subject to it, of course, but while technically enlisted personnel, they occupy an area in between enlisted and commissioned officers. As an expert in their field, be it by trade, skill set, or knowledge, they act as teachers for traditional enlisted personnel and as advisors for commissioned officers. This puts Warrant Officers in a very powerful position, guiding newer Soldiers and influencing the policy and decision making of officers. It also puts Warrant Officers in a very powerful position in their civilian life with ongoing professional practice and training.

So are you good at something? And we mean really good? Check out all the possibilities and stay up-to-date about openings near you on the Guard’s job board.

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