Maryland Airmen participate in Southern Strike 2023 Published April 25, 2023 By Sgt. Taylor Cleveland 175th Wing Camp Shelby, Mi. -- Cellular phones and computers are seen in just about every part of daily life. They’re needed for transactions, business meetings, personal interactions and everything in between. Most people rarely go without being connected. However, when there is a weak signal, it becomes challenging to get things done. The cyber units in the military help to ensure connections are strong enough to continue the mission. Cyber units participating in Southern Strike 2023 focused on integrating with special forces, enabling multi-domain operations, and validating a new cyber range during the exercise April 13-27, 2023. The 175th Cyberspace Operations Squadron (COS), Maryland Air National Guard, was invited to collaborate with the 178th Cyber Protection Team (CPT), Mississippi Army National Guard, to validate the new range. The validation was instrumental in solidifying the performance of the range making Mississippi's Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center a premier destination for units to exercise multi-domain operations. “We set up a cyber range to mimic a small city environment with a military enclave and basically planted a bunch of enemy intelligence on the range for the U.S. forces to go in and find that would help drive the training going on in the real world,” said Lt. Col. Bobby Freeman, cyber warfare officer with the 178th CPT. Additionally, the 175th COS collaborated closely with the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group's Multi-domain Special Operations Detachment (MDSOD) to enable and enhance kinetic operations with cyber capabilities and effects. This mission included distinguishing an enemy network in a forward climate that is segregated from the public Web. “We’re generally far from our targets, so by working with a Special Operations group we can collaborate. They have on-the-ground and close-access capabilities they were able to leverage and get access to some of those harder to reach target networks. They were able to install mobile hotspots to give us Wi-Fi access,” said Airman 1st Class Gerald Mack, 175th COS . Working from a distance to coordinate actual activities of the Special Operations Forces, the cyber administrators incorporated strategies to accumulate information and keep up with access for future tasks. "Combining traditional cyber operations with tactical close-access operations can have several benefits such as increased effectiveness, improved situational awareness, enhanced intelligence gathering, and improved operational security," said Maj. Chris Schneck, cyber component lead for the exercise. It is essential to demonstrate this coordinated effort in order to assist other units that are participating but do not have a comprehensive understanding of how this emerging area of warfare can be utilized in future exercises and real-life operations.