JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Virginia Air National Guard members from the 185th Cyberspace Operations Squadron have embarked on a six-month mobilization this month in support of United States Cyber Command’s 856th Cyber Protection Team. The Airmen celebrated their upcoming mission with family and command leadership during send-off ceremonies in August 2021 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
Col. Christopher G. Batterton, 192nd Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Toni M. Lord, Virginia National Guard Air Component commander, Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. Roberts, 192nd Wing command chief, and Lt. Col. Jonathan Esparza, 185th COS commander, bid the Airmen farewell during the events.
“Cyber is high on the priority list for the Air National Guard, for our nation,” Batterton said. “There is one thing that is definitely constant, and that is there is constantly change… The ability for your team to leverage your experience from your civilian careers as well as your experience here in the Air National Guard is huge, using the tools that you have- the weapons system, and of course the biggest tool you have, your mind. To think creatively. To redefine the battlespace and help defend our nation. Thank you for your sacrifice.”
“The Bats” ceremoniously removed their 185th COS bat patch during a ceremony on Aug. 7, replacing it with the 856th CPT patch.
“You are charged to protect the networks and the weapons systems of our country,” Roberts exclaimed. “You’re on this mission because we believe in you and we know that you have the skills and abilities to do what it takes to be successful. As you begin this mobilization, you should be proud of what you are and what you’re bringing to the fight; you’re well trained, you’re well led, and you’re going to be a fierce cyber protection team.”
The 185th COS was a new squadron initiative reactivated in 2019, 100 years to the day its World War I predecessor was demobilized. Formerly known as the 185th Aero Squadron, the members became known as “the Bats” as their mission involved night-pursuit tactics to compromise German warfighters during WWI. Its missions during that time were fairly advanced and parallels the 185th COS’ present-day mission to venture into an ever evolving cyber battleground.
“Thank you for your preparation and your sacrifice,” said Esparza. “Great Airmen like Gen. Curtis Lemay understood first-hand the value of preparation. His cardinal rule of ‘you fight as you train,’ resounds in each of you. As you endure the challenges and unpredictability ahead of you, know with great confidence that you have rigidly trained to a standard that will allow you to instinctively execute tactics, techniques and procedures in pursuit of your objective. You each know first-hand the cost of sacrifice. As citizen-Airmen, you leave your families, careers and communities to serve our nation and the Commonwealth. You do so knowing that the terrain is rough, the enemy is relentless and the environment is chaotic. You are truly unique!”
The 185th COS has excelled on many fronts in their training missions to prepare for this mobilization. The squadron has increased the number of combat mission ready (CMR) operators from 20 to 32, opened a full-operational capability, completed in-house initial qualification training to accelerate the production of: three CMR operators, two new instructors, and one new evaluator; obtained more than 50 hours of mission planning, execution, and debrief designed to reinforce defensive cyber operations tactics, techniques and procedures; and have a comprehensive Airman care plan with over 25 hours of support from the VaANG’s helping agencies.
“It brings me great pride to know that there are such skilled, talented, and diverse cyber defenders and cyber operators in the VaANG,” Lord added. “As we look ahead, we remain committed to working to defend our way of life for today and a secure tomorrow.”