FORT MEADE, Md. — Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Fairfax-based 124th Cyber Protection Battalion, 91st Cyber Brigade took charge of the Task Force Echo cyberspace mission during a transition of authority ceremony hosted by the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) Feb. 21, 2020, at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Over the last year three years, more than 450 Army National Guard Soldiers have been assigned to Task Force Echo and have worked with the 780th MI Brigade to conduct cyberspace operations in support of U.S. Cyber Command and the Cyber National Mission Force. The task force is aligned under the 780th, which falls under the operational control of U.S. Army Cyber Command.
The outgoing Task Force Echo formation, primarily assigned to the 126th Cyber Protection Battalion, was comprised of Army National Guard Soldiers who hailed from Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont. Task Force Echo III was commanded by Lt. Col. Michael Courville, commander of the 126th CPB, and Command Sgt. Maj. Sean McNamara served as the battalion’s senior enlisted leader.
Lt. Col John Truax and Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Hawley serve as the battalion command team for the 124th CPB and will lead the fourth iteration of Task Force Echo. Army National Guard cyber units and elements from Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Virginia make up the entire task force.
During the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Fogerty, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, thanked the outgoing Soldiers, reminding them of the importance of the tasks they completed successfully during their mobilization.
“You are vital to our ability to actually operate,” Fogarty said. “What you do is very complex and very critical. What was especially noteworthy for this rotation was that you represented 12 states and came together so brilliantly to not only get the job done, but to make so many great improvements to our core systems and processes.”
Col. Brian D. Vile, commander of the 780th, gave remarks during the ceremony, also highlighting the importance of cyberspace operations and Task Force Echo’s mission.
“The Soldiers before you are the warriors of the 21st century, and they bring skills and expertise that are changing the face of modern warfare,” said Vile. “They support CYBERCOM’s effort to revolutionize cyberspace operations by generating capabilities, and enabling the delivery of effects in support of national-level objectives.”
Vile also spoke to the criticality of what the National Guard specifically brings to the fight.
“The decision to utilize the dedicated, experienced and technically-skilled members of the Guard in this capacity clearly demonstrates the integral role the National Guard plays in the defense of our nation,” said Vile.
Task Force Echo leverages critical capabilities and capacity from our Reserve Component forces in support of U.S. Cyber Command operations worldwide, Truax explained.
“The combination of civilian acquired expertise, military training, industry best practices, and aggressive innovation continues to pay huge dividends to the Joint Force,” he said. “At the conclusion of their missions, ARNG Soldiers return home with an expanded skill set and extensive hands-on experience which enables them to provide their State Governors and Adjutant Generals with additional capabilities in support of state requirements.”
The 91st Cyber Brigade was activated as the Army National Guard’s first cyber brigade Sept. 17, 2017, and it provides training and readiness oversight for cyber units across 31 states and deploys personnel to meet the demands of growing cyber mission sets throughout the U.S. Army and Department of Defense.
The fifth battalion of the 91st Cyber Brigade will be stationed in Indianapolis, Indiana, according to an announcement made Oct. 22, 2019, by Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the director of the Army National Guard. The newly formed 127th Cyber Battalion will join the 123rd and 124th Cyber Battalions in Fairfax, Virginia, the 125th Cyber Battalion in Columbia, South Carolina, and 126th Cyber Battalion at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts.
PHOTOS: VNG’s 124th Cyber Protection Battalion takes charge of Task Force Echo