BOWLING GREEN, Va. –
Two Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Bowling Green-based 91st Cyber Brigade recently proved cyber Soldiers’ worth beyond the keyboard by completing the U.S. Army Ranger School and earning the right to wear the Ranger tab on their uniforms.
Maj. Andre Slonopas, commander of the 134th Cyber Security Company, 124th Cyber Protection Battalion, and 1st Lt. Edward Olbrych, a cyber security support platoon leader, 134th Cyber Security Company, 124th Cyber Protection Battalion, completed the two-month long course in July 2021 and now proudly sport the coveted tab.
“It’s great news to hear that we have two Cyber Warriors who volunteered to challenge themselves and test their mettle at the Army's most demanding school,” said Col. Scott Smith, Virginia Army National Guard chief of staff. “Ranger School is designed to challenge Soldiers to the limit and test their will while also providing the students with the most realistic and comprehensive small unit tactical training afforded in the Army.”
“Ranger tab is simply a testament that cyber warriors are fully committed to every task- technical and/or tactical,” Slonopas said.
Slonopas began his career as an engineer officer with the Fredericksburg-based 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. He switched to the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit in 2014 and became one of the staff officers instrumental in standing up the 91st Cyber Brigade.
“I saw exceptional skill and dedication to duty among cyber officers and cyber enlisted,” Slonopas recalled.
Olbrych commissioned into the Signal Corps and soon found his passion in Cyber. After assessing into the Cyber branch, he mobilized with the 91st Cyber Brigade for the Task Force Echo mission and served as one of the lead Cyber subject matter experts on the team.
“I believe the National Guard is equipped to fight in any domain, and has the skills to compete and perform at the same level as the active duty,” Slonopas said. “I believe we demonstrated just that”.
“While Maj. Slonopas and 1st Lt. Olbrych are unlikely to apply their newly acquired skills to an infantry unit in the Virginia Army National Guard, what they learned in Ranger School will make them even more capable Cyber officers,” Smith said. “They will better understand how the Cyber domain can best support the Soldiers and units on the ground in direct contact with the enemy and can use this knowledge as they advise commanders on the employment of cyber in support of the combat arms.
“Additionally, regardless of a Ranger School graduate's MOS they leave with the confidence in knowing they are capable of accomplishing their mission under great duress, while sleep deprived and hungry. Graduates of Ranger School return to their units knowing how to lead Soldiers under the most challenging conditions, how to motivate others to accomplish a common goal, and finally having the confidence in themselves to accomplish the mission no matter how difficult the task.”
Both Soldiers will continue their service with the 91st Cyber Brigade. Slonopas will continue to serve as a company commander while Olbrych plans to finish his transition to the Cyber branch and attend Airborne and Air Assault schools in the near future.
The 91st Cyber Brigade is the Army National Guard’s first, and only, cyber brigade. Consisting of five battalions, five cyber security companies, five cyber warfare companies, and 11 cyber protection teams arrayed across more than 30 states, 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.