NEWS | April 5, 2018

Task Force Echo is an Army Cyber success story

By Steve Stover 780th MI Brigade

Task Force Echo, an Army National Guard formation comprised of more than 140 Soldiers from seven states — California, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia and Utah — held an award ceremony to honor and recognize the service of these cyber warriors March 27, 2018, at Fort Meade, Maryland.

The TFE mobilization is historic in that it marked the first Army National Guard task force mobilization of this size to support U.S Cyber Command operations full time, and is a testament to the Army’s commitment to the Total Force in defense of networks against the nation’s adversaries.

According to Col. Adam Volant, the commander of Task Force Echo and commanding officer of the Virginia National Guard’s Bowling-green based 91st Cyber Brigade, the guardsmen were able to rely on their “diverse technical backgrounds coming from years of experience working defensive cyberspace positions in the private sector.” The 91st is the first cyber brigade in the Army National Guard.

TFE operates under the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) to engineer, operate and defend cyberspace in support of USCYBERCOM and the Cyber Mission Force missions.

In the past year, the Soldiers of TFE have completed more than 38,000 hours of technical training and supported more than 1,500 U.S. Army Cyber Command and USCYBERCOM missions. As a result of their success, the Department of Defense has extended the TFE mission and will transition the current group of ARNG Soldiers with a new team of cyber warriors.

“About two weeks ago, the 15th of March, the Secretary of Defense approved the extension — the establishment of the next iteration of Task Force Echo. It has never been done in that fashion before…never happened for a CONUS-based unit,” said Brig. Gen. JP McGee, the deputy commanding general of operations for U.S. Army Cyber Command, and the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony. “When we properly articulated the role you play…He understood the unique contributions of this organization.”

McGee stated the partnership between the cyber Army guardsmen and their active duty counterparts would not only benefit both units, but their home states, industry, and ultimately, the nation.

“When you go back to your civilian jobs you most likely are going back to an IT job. You will be actually working in the domain and you’ll be better in your jobs and when we bring you back in on active duty in a couple years, you’ll come back better trained, with new perspectives and new ideas on how to integrate that technology,” said McGee.

Speaking to the TFE Soldiers and their family members, Lt. Col. Jesse Sandefer, the deputy commander for the 780th MI Brigade, stated, “Look at how many workstations we now have, look at how many operations we conducted on that infrastructure, look at the type of operations we have conducted, just look at what’s happened in the ten months that you’ve actually been deployed in the fight and how far we’ve moved forward. The 780th absolutely would not have done that without the people in this room. Thank you.”

The departing Soldiers of the first iteration of Task Force Echo will form the nucleus of state-assigned cyber protection teams and fall under the newly activated 91st Cyber Brigade, an Army National Guard unit based out of Bowling Green, Virginia.

Today, the Army National Guard is the only organization in the Department of Defense with five cyber battalions, all established in 2017, with the capacity to support the TFE requirement.

“The fact that the Army is reaching back to the National Guard to mobilize highly talented part-time cyber Soldiers speaks volumes to the “Total Army” concept and the Army’s recognition of what these part-time Soldiers can do for the defense cyberspace and the Nation,” said Volant.

The incoming ARNG Soldiers assigned to Task Force Echo II will assume the cyberspace support mission in a transition of authority ceremony here on April 19. These cyber warriors hail from Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

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