The transition of authority from the 169th Cyber Protection Team (CPT) to Task Force Echo (TFE) that took place on Aug. 15, 2017, at Fort Meade, Md., was more than just a ceremony. It was a historic event for the Army cyber enterprise and the entire Nation.
While Army National Guard and active duty units frequently train, deploy and serve side-by-side, this event marked the largest reserve component federal active duty mobilization in support of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) in DoD history. The transition reflects the Army’s commitment to the Total Force policy in defense of networks against the Nation’s adversaries.
TFE is comprised of more than 140 Army National Guard cyber Soldiers representing seven states – California, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Utah and Virginia. It will operate under the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (MIB) to train and conduct cyberspace operations in support of USCYBERCOM and the Cyber Mission Force.
LTG Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER), hosted the ceremony. Guests included Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and LTG Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, as well as numerous State adjutants general, fellow Soldiers and Family members.
“The strength of our Total Force is as evident in cyber protection as it is in any other Army mission. Across all three components, the Army is training these cyber mission force teams to one joint standard as defined by the U.S. Cyber Command,” LTG Kadavy said.
LTG Nakasone emphasized that the U.S. Army has been at war for 16 years, the longest period of conflict in the country’s history. He explained that the Army recognizes the future of cybersecurity will require an all-force approach with each component contributing significant efforts.
“Our Total Force Army – our Army National Guard, our Army Reserve, all of these Soldiers, including the active component – will play a significant role in the future of securing cyberspace defense for our Nation,” said LTG Nakasone. “Today represents a very important milestone in the history of Army cyberspace operations. It marks not only the great progress the Army has made, but also highlights the important contributions the reserve component brings to the cyber mission force.”
The 169th has operated under the 780th MIB, an active duty organization, since 2015. Currently, the 169th CPT and its 21 Army National Guard Soldiers hail from 13 States. At the unit’s largest formation, it had more than 60 Soldiers who represented 24 States and two U.S. territories.
According to LTC Martine Whitaker, chief of the 169th CPT, the team was the first Army National Guard cyber unit to reach initial operational capability – and it did so in concert with its active duty counterparts. More importantly, when team members leave Fort Meade, they leave with greatly increased cyberspace operational knowledge, skills and abilities that will also benefit their home States.
“Today, we proudly recognize the Army National Guard’s absolute, indisputable relevance within the Total Army,” LTC Whitaker said. “In the case of the 169th Cyber Protection Team – the first Army National Guard cyber team to serve alongside our active duty comrades – [it] will always be the first, the original, the mold from which all other teams follow.”
“The performance of the 169th Cyber Protection Team, and assumption of mission by Task Force Echo, demonstrates the Total Force employed in the Army and USCYBERCOM,” said COL Adam Volant, the TFE commander. “Together, we integrate with ARCYBER and USCYBERCOM to perform missions that defend the Nation and represent the quality force effectively aimed against our adversaries.”
COL Volant said both TFE and 169th CPT Soldiers have strong academic, interagency and corporate relationships.
“The truly unique part of these Soldiers is that the blend of their experience, military training and civilian credentialing – cybersecurity certifications and clearance – make them well qualified to immediately perform missions of importance at the State and federal level,” COL Volant said.
Recently, the Army National Guard also established a mission-ready cyber unit – the 91st Cyber Brigade, comprised of five cyber battalions. As the 169th CPT moves to a new chapter under the Maryland Army National Guard, it will assist the 91st Cyber Brigade in ensuring the readiness of future teams. (Read the full story on the 91st Cyber Brigade under the Cyberspace section of Citizen-SoldierMagazine.com.)
“Today is truly a great day – not just for the Total Army and the Department of Defense, but for our entire country,” LTG Kadavy said. “As Task Force Echo assumes the mission from the 169th Cyber Protection Team, they represent the precursor to the reserve component mission-ready cyber units of today and the future.”
LTG Kadavy said that whether the mission is responding to hazardous weather in the United States, helping fight our Nation’s wars overseas or defending against highly skilled and hostile attackers in cyberspace, the most crucial element to success has been and always will be our Soldiers.
“While this ceremony features one commander passing authority to another, it’s all about the individuals,” LTG Kadavy said at the unit’s transition of authority ceremony. “Today, we recognize and honor the great work performed by the Soldiers in the 169th Cyber Protection Team throughout its four-year history. We also recognize that these same Soldiers, who helped establish the Army’s modern-day cyber protection mission, will continue to increase the Army’s ability to protect our country from cyberattacks.
“In reality, this mission is just beginning, and it will continue to grow with the lightning speed of technology. And we know that because this mission is in your hands, it is in the best hands.”
Story Provided by Steve Stover, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) and Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard