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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Soldier Finds Careers Take Flight When You Put in Time and Effort

Michael Parkins had always had an interest in aviation, but he considered a career as a pilot “kind of more of a dream, not something that was necessarily attainable.”

But Parkins found that once he put in the time and the effort, he could become a helicopter pilot no matter what roadblocks he encountered. Parkins, 27, is a Warrant Officer with the Wyoming Army National Guard, and as of February 2016, a freshly graduated Black Hawk pilot.

Before he could get his hands on flight instruments, WO1 Parkins was more of an expert in instruments of the musical variety – as in the trumpet and piano. The Cheyenne, Wyo. native joined the Guard six years ago as a 42R Army Band member while he was in college pursuing a music education degree. 

WO1 Parkins credits both his college and his Guard experience in giving him the confidence and perseverance to pursue both his part-time Guard career in aviation and his new full-time civilian career as a police officer.

“Between my experience in the Guard and in music education, having to stand up and teach, both of those have helped me a lot with my leadership experience and just my drive and determination in general.”

WO1 Parkins was initially turned down for a flight slot the first time he applied. Part of the problem was he was on a voluntary deployment overseas in Bahrain and had nowhere to take a Selection Instrument for Flight Training (SIFT) test, one of the requirements necessary for his application. Luckily, another slot opened up in Wyoming soon after, and he got it.

WO1 Parkins spent 15 months in flight school, followed by more training to improve his readiness levels in piloting the Black Hawk, considered to be the military’s most versatile helicopter because it can be used for a variety of missions, including air assaults, medical evacuations, and sling load operations to carry a heavy item like a howitzer or a Humvee beneath the aircraft. It can be used during all types of weather conditions and is equipped with night vision capability.

WO1 Michael Parkins in the cockpit of an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter.

WO1 Michael Parkins in the cockpit of an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter.

Earlier this month, WO1 Parkins was on medevac standby for a fire in the northwestern part of the State. While he did not perform an actual rescue, it was his first service mission as a helicopter pilot. Because Wyoming, like many western States has a drier climate, WO1 Parkins expects to be called upon during a wildfire again.

“A lot of Units just constantly train and sometimes never get to do their job, but that’s not the case for us,” says WO1 Parkins. “We frequently get chances to perform our job, which I think is pretty awesome. 

One of the Guard’s primary missions is to serve the community, especially in emergency situations like natural disasters.

“We don’t necessarily have to be deployed overseas to do our mission,” says WO1 Parkins. “We can get called up to move sandbags, to help do search and rescue missions, medevac standby, firefighting. There are all sorts of opportunities that we have to save lives not only overseas, but here stateside, on a regular basis.”

He also appreciates the flexibility of being able to serve in the Guard part-time to do a mission “that helps people out but still get to pick what I want to do as a full-time career that could be something completely different.”

So if your interests are as wide-ranging as WO1 Parkins’ are, the Guard is sure to have a career that suits you. There are more than 150 fields to choose from. Learn more about them on our job board or contact a recruiter today.


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Three Ways to Continue Your Service Part-time

In looking back at On Your Guard, there have been quite a few stories that proved to be popular or especially indicative of the rewards of service. So, in the spirit of ‘everything old is new again,’ we will occasionally republish these stories for the benefit of our new readers. This one from 2012 happens to fit the ‘old is new’ theme perfectly.

If you are prior service and just can’t shake how much you miss it, read on to see why the Army National Guard may be the answer. Then check out our job board and contact a recruiter today.

Army National Guard SoldiersYou’ve separated from the military. That’s no easy decision and we’re sure you have your reasons. Thing is, now you’re realizing that as much as you were a part of the service, the service was a part of you. And like anything that’s become a part of you, it can be difficult, even painful, to separate from it.

You thought you’d concentrate on your degree, your career, your family, or work on your golf game. Whatever it is, you do your thing. You do it well. After all, you learned discipline in the service. You learned determination in the service. You learned the value of a job well done in the service.

No wonder your mind wanders back to your time in the service. Is that just sentimentalism or the realization that you’re not quite ready to give it all up? Maybe you miss the camaraderie or the military discounts and benefits. Maybe you regret not finishing out your 20 years to get a great pension down the road.

Only you know for sure, but your service need not end after separation from active duty, reserve duty, or Guard service. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can have your cake and eat it, too, as a prior service Soldier serving part-time in the Army National Guard.

Just check out these opportunities for those with prior military experience.

Signal and Military Intelligence: Information – or as we refer to it, intelligence – is a vital commodity in the military, and the ability to collect and interpret it in a timely fashion is just as critical. Technology plays a major role in this process. Even if you didn’t work in this MOS during your previous service tenure, your military-centric knowledge and experience creates a solid foundation on which we can build.

Special Forces: The Guard’s Special Forces units are, simply put, intense. Designed exclusively for the toughest of the tough, Special Forces units cater to those who are, or desire to be, elite. Your military knowledge and experience will translate directly into your training and advanced duties in this highly exclusive MOS.

Warrant Officer: Warrant Officers are the best in their fields. Period. As a Warrant Officer, you can continue your service by becoming the Guard’s technical expert in a specific area of expertise. While branch officers will manage the day-to-day operations of a unit, you will specialize in your field and provide that expertise to both enlisted personnel and officers. Your prior service credentials will certainly give you a leg up on the preparation for this demanding but rewarding career path.

So if you’ve been waxing nostalgic for your time in uniform, the Army National Guard could be the perfect way for you to get the best of both worlds: serving part-time with the Guard and achieving all those other things you’ve wanted to do.

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