Cyber Yankee Training Helps Guard Defend Nation from Cyberattacks

JOINT BASE CAPE COD, Mass. – More than 400 eyes stare at a sea of laptops in a hallway of rooms. These eyes belong to the participants of Cyber Yankee 2018, an exercise between multiple National Guard cyber units and civilian agencies that trains participants to defend critical networks against domestic cyberattacks. 

At first glance, it may not appear as though much is happening, but not all military maneuvers take place on a traditional battlefield.

“They look at those in cyber and think, ‘Oh, they are just behind computer screens not doing anything.’ Well those guys could be the ones defending you, getting your orders properly, [or] your position, where you’re located,” said CPT Lee Ford, assistant team lead with Cyber Yankee and a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Element (DCOE).

“Technology is engrossed in every facet of our lives, texting mom in California, or ensuring clean water inside your faucets, technology is in every industry,” he said.

During the Cyber Yankee exercise, the Red Cell, or the bad guys, strike the defense, the Blue Cell, with different cyberattack scenarios. These simulated attacks are targeting a water supply networking system, a power company and a Department of Defense network. The Blue Cell mission is to make sure the region remains operational.

The cyber teams are prepared for battle due to their training, specific to the Soldier’s military occupational specialty (MOS), and/or their civilian careers.

In fact, here’s a short video about the Guard’s cyber training:


“We have a bunch of network monitoring software out there. A lot of it is based on skill, too. You have different people who are good at certain things,” said SSG Ryan Beaudoin, Rhode Island National Guard DCOE.

Due to the part-time nature of Guard service, many of the Soldiers on cyber teams come from civilian backgrounds in defense or intrusion detection, working for companies like IBM, Akamai, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

SPC Adam Wong works for MIT Lincoln Laboratories and is also a network and host base forensics analyst with 136th Cyber Security Support Team Detachment, New Hampshire Army National Guard.

“In the event of an intrusion, I will analyze malware files,” said SPC Wong. “I’ll conduct forensics, try to attempt to reverse-engineer the malware to figure out what it’s doing and also trace back into the network logs and try to figure out how it got there.”

He said the group is learning to hone its skills as a team and adapting to work in panic mode.

Part of the team is comprised of military analysts, who provide different angles on how to fight the scenarios.

“We can come in and we can analyze, look up that threat, see if they’ve had any issues in the past, see what they’re motivated by, whether it is money, political affiliation or something like that,” said SSG Tara O’Keefe, military intelligence analyst, 136th Cyber Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard.

SGT Colton Williams, 126th Cyber Protection Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard, is a 31B Military Police Officer retraining as a 25B Information Technology Specialist.

“The level of skills of these individuals, it blows me away,” he said of the cyber teams.

SGT Williams said he believes that this training is important because the network is everywhere, and the Guard needs to be able to activate stateside to help out citizens.

“There’s no dedicated front line, so having a Soldier who’s capable of operating both on the home front and overseas is absolutely necessary,” he said.

So if you’re interested in protecting your Nation, consider joining the Army National Guard, where you can work in a critical field like cyber or intelligence. Check out our job board to explore all of our opportunities and to learn more about our benefits, like money for college and low-cost health and life insurance. You can also contact your local recruiter for more information.

From an original story by SFC Laura Berry, Massachusetts Army National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil, in June 2018.

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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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STEM Careers in the Guard: A Spotlight on Math

On Your Guard is wrapping up its look at STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, careers offered by the Army National Guard. These jobs require problem solving skills and the ability to think critically. They are also typically high paying careers that are in demand in the civilian workforce.

Here’s why that last point is so important: the vast majority of Guard Soldiers serve part-time. As a result, many Soldiers capitalize on their skills training and the Guard’s education benefits to go to college and build successful full-time civilian careers.

This week, we’ll take a look at Math careers, which cover jobs in the military intelligence arena.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Anthony Goindoo started his military career in the active duty Army as a 35P Cryptologic Linguist. He has since transitioned to 35N Signals Intelligence Analyst Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), but can do either job because the two are so closely related. In fact, he says, the only difference between the two intelligence jobs is that 35P involves the language element.

In both jobs, Soldiers use databases to acquire information, he says. 

“They analyze that information and put it in an easy-to-present packet to provide to, essentially our customers – which are brigade and battalion-level staff.”

In a deployment situation, SSG Goindoo explains, all the different intelligence sections, such as human, imagery and signals intelligence, come together and give what’s called an intel summary. With that, he says, “You have generally a complete picture of certain situations.”

After 5 years in the Army, including a deployment to Iraq, SSG Goindoo decided to transition to part-time military service in the Florida Army National Guard to start a civilian career. Plus, he could live at home in Florida and be with his family, and still be able to deploy should the need arise.

SSG Anthony Goindoo, Florida Army National Guard

SSG Anthony Goindoo, Florida Army National Guard

“I was ready to leave active duty, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the uniform. It becomes a part of your life,” he says. “While I sometimes miss active duty camaraderie, at least once a month I can get that camaraderie back.”

So once a month, on his Guard drill weekends, SSG Goindoo is not perfecting his intelligence skills because it would require the use of a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), which is an enclosed area where classified materials can be handled in a secured environment. Also, his MOS duties cannot be carried out in the United States. Intelligence gathering is strictly limited to deployment operations overseas, he says.

So instead, SSG Goindoo focuses on things like basic Soldier skills and professional development as a non-commissioned officer.

Those skills have helped him in his civilian career as a police officer for the City of West Palm Beach.

“The general skills that the Army puts in a Soldier – discipline, hard work, the never give up attitude, that applies to law enforcement every single day.” Plus, he says, “Having the intelligence background, having my degree, having my clearance, those things all paid off.”

He’s hoping to move into an intelligence unit within his police department so he can apply his MOS training into his law enforcement career by analyzing data — looking at where and at what times certain crimes are happening to create a larger picture.

For anyone who’s considering the 35P or 35N MOS, SSG Goindoo recommends that Soldiers have a strong command of the English language because they will need to be able to articulate themselves verbally and in writing.

“You need to be able to put your thoughts down on paper because you need to present your ideas to someone who doesn’t know your capabilities. You need to express yourself clearly and be confident about it because you’re going to be standing in front of somebody who is significantly more ranked than you.”

That scenario can be particularly nerve-wracking, Goindoo says, because a general or a colonel may not have as high of a security clearance as the private or specialist who’s providing the intelligence report. Situations can occur where the analyst is not able to share certain information with a higher ranking official.

SSG Goindoo cautions that a lot of an intelligence analyst’s time will be spent in a SCIF rather than out in the field.

“This is a critical thinking job, and a lot of peoples’ lives and their well-being depends on how well you can interpret the information that you’re getting.”

And being good at the job can lead to good paying jobs in the civilian and government sectors.

“As an analyst, the job opportunities are endless,” SSG Goindoo says. “Your job is very much in high demand.”

So if you have the aptitude for, and an interest in, a career in math, be sure to visit our job board to check out these Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs):

15Q Air Traffic Controller

13D Field Artillery Automated Data Systems Analyst

Guard careers in closely related fields, like Engineering, Science, and Technology might also be of interest to you. One way to narrow down your options is to contact your local recruiter.

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