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Cyber Shield Hones Skills, Builds Partnerships

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Roles,
  • 189th Airlift Wing

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - More than 800 National Guard Airmen, Soldiers and international partners participated in the 2023 Cyber Shield cybersecurity exercise hosted by the National Guard’s Professional Education Center June 2-17.

The exercise at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas, enabled cyber experts from 36 states and five partner nations to demonstrate their skills in the cyber domain.

“Cyber Shield is an unclassified defensive cyber operations exercise that allows us to build cyber capability, capacity and competency in the National Guard through unity of effort with industry and government partners and allies to provide hope, and ultimately will, on the darkest days,” said Brig. Gen. Teri Williams, the vice director of operations (cyber), National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Virginia.

Participants prepared for and responded to real-life scenarios in two segments. During the first week, 15 training courses were offered to freshen and hone skills. The second week focused on the exercise scenario — an attack by red team “hackers” on the U.S. transportation system sector’s critical infrastructure countered by blue team cyber defense operators.

“We are trying to emulate a real-world event, so this exercise helps us put together all the training we receive throughout the year,” said Tech. Sgt. Josh Hedden, a 223rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron cyber systems operator, Arkansas Air National Guard. “We typically train a lot and build up skills but don’t have the opportunity to put all of this together in an event. Tabletop exercises are key to being prepared for the real thing, so this is extremely beneficial for readiness.”

The training service members receive at Cyber Shield is vital to the ongoing effort to protect the nation. Attacks on critical infrastructures occur daily in the military and civilian cyber domains. 

“Already sophisticated cyber threats evolve daily,” said Maj. Scott Lang, the 223rd CYOS deputy commander. “The significance of our cyber operators staying current on all emerging threats, technologies and best practices lies in their ability to understand, anticipate and prevent any tactics employed by our adversaries.”