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Maryland National Guard Participating in Major Cyber Exercise

Sgt. James Mitchell, a cyber forensics expert with the Maryland Army National Guard’s 110th Information Operations Battalion, performs a network analysis during Exercise Cyber Shield 17 at Camp Williams, Utah, May 1, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Wayde Minami

Sgt. James Mitchell, a cyber forensics expert with the Maryland Army National Guard’s 110th Information Operations Battalion, performs a network analysis during Exercise Cyber Shield 17 at Camp Williams, Utah, May 1, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Wayde Minami

Camp Williams, Utah --

Twenty members of the Maryland National Guard joined more than 800 other participants at Camp Williams, Utah, for Exercise Cyber Shield 17, the National Guard’s premier cyber defense training event, Apr. 23, 2017.

The exercise, which includes members of the National Guard from 44 states, the Army Reserve, state and federal government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private industry, is designed to assess participants’ ability to respond to cyber incidents.

By working closely with interagency partners and the private sector, the National Guard seeks to strengthen network cybersecurity and the capability to support local responses to cyber incidents. Cyber Shield 17 is part of the National Guard’s ongoing effort to improve Guard ability to respond to real-world cyber incidents. This is the sixth iteration of this training exercise.

Maryland participants came from the state’s Joint Force Headquarters, the Maryland Army National Guard’s 110th Information Operations Battalion and the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing, as well as the Maryland Department of Information Technology. In addition to those receiving training, Maryland Guardsmen are supporting Cyber Shield as instructors and exercise staff.

The exercise is divided into two phases: the first week offers participants the opportunity to hone their skills through academic instruction covering everything from the legal aspects of cyber operations to the nature of cyber threats to hands-on technical training. Equally important, the soldiers and airmen are learning their roles as part of the larger cyberspace defense community.

During the second phase of Cyber Shield, exercise participants from cyber protection teams face off against trained adversaries. The teams try to defend their networks and mitigate the effects of attacks in a free-wheeling clash of cyberspace acumen.

The National Guard’s dual state-federal character makes it uniquely positioned to help civilian agencies and critical nongovernmental entities, such as public utilities, if an incident occurs. Because of their status as a state military force when not under federal mobilization orders, Guard units are available to respond to state-level emergencies at their governor’s discretion.

“As a governor would call up the National Guard…for a state disaster, such as a hurricane, it’s no different for a cyber event,” Louisiana National Guard Lt. Col. Henry Capello, the exercise commander, explained.

Moreover, the National Guard’s long-standing connections with state and local governments and private industry, combined with its familiarity with the cyberspace environment in which these organizations operate, make it an ideal partner.

“Being a citizen-soldier, and being able to work in the communities in which I live, is a little bit different,” Capello said. “It means a lot more to me, and I’m able to help them because I understand their problems better.”

Exercise Cyber Shield ends May 5.