168th Cyber Operations Squadron assists and trains Army Guard cyber team

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Kelly
  • 132d Wing
Since being activated in 2017, the 168th Cyberspace Operations Squadron (COS), operating out of the 132d Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, has executed its mission of providing cyber protections teams to identify, pursue and mitigate cyberspace threats impacting Department of Defense information networks, critical links, and nodes.

As the State of Iowa looks to ratchet up its cyber defense capabilities, Iowa National Guard Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) turned to the Defense Cyberspace Operations Element (DCOE) to spearhead this initiative. The DCOE is state level Army coordinated cyberspace team. While the 168th COS serves a variety of clients both state and federal, the DCOE’s primary mission will be to support the state level missions.

“We’re all training to do the same types of things,” said Lt. Col. Eric Eggers, DCOE team chief. “Our goal is to get our people the opportunity to train and grow the (DCOE) team to be a feasible size element. Having the Air and Army work together in this is much more fiscally beneficial.”

As facilities and infrastructure are being built to support the cyber initiative, the DCOE team currently drills with the 168 COS to maximize training and increase cohesion with Air and Army National Guard processes. Joint training allows the Air and Army to combine resources and give the DCOE a temporary home until additional facilities are ready. The DEOC will have a bigger role in domestic operations (DOMOPS) around the state including support of elections and responding to tasking’s for the governor.

“We’ve been able to acquire some space in JFHQ that our team will be able to go to while there and double as a joint workspace when we go into the 2022 election season,” said Eggers. “That will allow the DCOE and 168th COS to work out of JFHQ on that mission when it requires it.”

In addition to state operations, the DCOE will be able to have a larger involvement in the State Partnership Program (SPP) with cyberspace units in the Kosovo Security Forces. While the SPP is coordinated through the Army, the cyberspace operations has been primarily led by the 168th COS. Eggers said having the DCOE team up and running will help the joint environment run smoothly.

The Air and Army Cyber Team has been successful in the operations that it has supported in defending local, state and federal election processes. The 168th COS is optimistic about the future of the partnership.

“We are not only helping to get the DCOE to be self-sustained but also increase our joint impact on the mission,” said Capt. George Baak, 168th COS director of operations. “Being able to be called upon to serve the state and nation, that’s we do here in the Guard and we are excited to enhance that capability.”