91st Cyber Brigade
The 91st Cyber Brigade was officially activated on Sept. 1, 2017, and is the Army National Guard’s first, and only, cyber brigade. The brigade consists of five battalions, five cyber security companies, five cyber warfare companies, and 11 cyber protection teams arrayed across more than 30 states. The primary mission of the brigade is to provide training and readiness oversight for these units, as well as operational command and control when needed. The brigade is a strategic asset to U.S. Cyber Command and Army Cyber Command.
The 91st Cyber Brigade was conceived in November 2016, approved in February 2017, and activated in September 2017, making it one of the fastest implementations of force structure from conception to activation in National Guard history.
Since 2017, the 91st Cyber Brigade has focused on building its assigned strength. Less than 10 months after activation, the brigade grew its assigned strength from 40% to 95%. The 91st Troop Command and the Virginia Data Processing Unit provided the initial manning for both the cyber protection battalions and the cyber brigade headquarters. Now, the brigade focuses on ensuring its soldiers are technically proficient and ready to support their continuous federal missions.
Despite restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 91st Cyber Brigade successfully adjusted to a “new normal” and accomplished several major objectives throughout 2020.
The 91st Cyber Brigade mobilized nearly 200 cyber warriors in support of three federal mobilizations while simultaneously conducting state active duty support in spring and summer 2020. As the cyber landscape changed, the 91st Cyber Brigade successfully helped close out and render one “mission complete” leaving the brigade to focus on the remaining two federal missions. These federal mobilizations support both United States Cyber Command and Army Cyber Command, supporting operations throughout the globe while defending the homeland from overseas cyber threats. In the same year the 91st Cyber Brigade mobilized a battalion, they simultaneously brought a second Virginia battalion home or demobilized them. Notably, the 124th Cyber Protection Battalion blazed the trail for the MOSQ (military occupational skills qualifications) constructive credit with the Cyber Center of Excellence. Some of the Soldiers from their mobilization will receive MOSQ constructive credit, depending on the work role assigned, saving the Department of Defense an inordinate amount of money but also keeping Guardsmen home with their families and in their communities rather than attending training for a skill that they have already demonstrated proficiency. Subsequent battalions will benefit from this work as well.
To support increasing state requests for assistance, the 91st Cyber Brigade provided cyber training and certification to members of the Virginia Defense Force. With the help of the VDF, the 91st Cyber Brigade is positioned to meet the growing demand for cyber support in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
During 2020, the 91st Cyber Brigade led and supported Cyber Shield 2020, the National Guard’s premier, multi-component and branch exercise focusing on the protection of DOD Information Networks. Cyber Shield is the primary collective exercise for the NG Defensive Cyberspace Operations Elements. The Brigade’s cyber range provided the platform to conduct the exercise remotely across the nation from over 600 dispersed locations due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Cyber Shield 2020 would have been canceled without the capabilities and capacity that Shadow Net and the Brigade’s S6 section brought to the exercise.
Shadow Net, again a Brigade cyber range – built by Guardsmen, for Guardsmen, was also used by the Army Reserve (COMPO 3) in order to validate their Cyber Protection Teams when the CYBERCOM Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE) was not able to accommodate the virtual conduct of their FOC requirement.
Despite the pandemic, Cyber Protection Team (CPT) 172 achieved FOC (fully operational capable) and CPT 171 achieved IOC (initial operational capable). Furthermore, they prepared four CPTs for FOC validation for the follow-on year. The brigade worked with ARCYBER to adjust the validation model for both COMPO 2 and COMPO 3 in order to align with the Brigade’s SRM (Sustained Readiness Model).
The Brigade also stood up a fifth battalion, the 127th Cyber Protection Battalion, headquartered out of Indianapolis, Indiana.
The 91st Cyber Brigade has three lines of effort. Those LOEs are successful federal mobilizations, achieving IOC/FOC to the joint standard, and establishing TRO with the implementation of efficient and sustainable processes. The brigade’s center of gravity for growth and success is Shadow Warriors or the members of the brigade. Efforts to acquire Cyber Incentive Pay are underway in order to retain these valued resources, our citizen Soldiers.
The 91st Cyber Brigade is also working towards these LOEs by partnering with academia (George Mason University) and industry (Dominion Energy) to develop training relationships that are mutually beneficial.
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Bowling Green-based 91st Cyber Brigade