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NEWS | Dec. 21, 2023

VaANG’s 185th Cyberspace Operations Squadron officially opens new headquarters

By Staff Sgt. Kellyann Elish | 192nd Wing

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- The Virginia Air National Guard’s 185th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, 192nd Operations Group, 192nd Wing, held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of its state-of-the-art cyberspace facility Dec. 1, 2023, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. This milestone begins a new chapter for the history of the 185th COS, also known as “the Bats,” and marks the 192nd Wing’s first purpose-built structure since its move from Sandston to Langley in 2007.

Maj. Gen. James W. Ring, Adjutant General of Virginia, Col. Brock E. Lange, 192nd Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Sean J. Fretwell, 192nd Wing command chief, joined the youngest Bat, a 185th COS senior airman, in front of the building for the official ceremony as the youngest Bat cut the ribbon.

"Throughout its history, the lineage of the 185th Cyber Operations Squadron has shown it to be a unit in a constant state of action,” said the squadron’s designated historian during the ceremony. “As the 185th Aero Squadron, the unit was formed during the infancy of aerial combat and saw action in the skies of the First World War. This established a legacy of adaptability and perseverance in the face of adversity that is still embraced by cyber operators of the modern “Bats” who stand ready to defend our nation’s information systems…This new building solidifies our place in the future of Air Force operations, and it is very special to unveil our new home, co-located with our original WWI unit, the 1st Pursuit Group, now the 1st Operations Group and our close Total Force Integration partner.”

The squadron’s historian recounted the history of the Bats, and Ring emphasized the history of the Virginia National Guard, dating back to 1607 when Citizen-Soldiers formed militias to defend the Jamestown settlement.

“Within the tradition of our Air National Guard and our U.S. Air Force, as we talk about the Total Force, multi-component integration, we are part of that important fabric of Citizen-Soldiers that are ready to stand and to be always ready and always there,” said Ring. “And nowhere more do we see that than within emerging mission sets like cyberspace operations.”

Ring said the VaANG has a deep tradition of excellence, not only within the commonwealth, but also within national mission sets. That tradition showed as the 185th went from initial operational capability to full operational capability onto federal mission sets in support of the national cyber mission force.

"For the men and women of the Bats, thank you for the mission that you do, thank you for the mission that you’ve been doing, but most importantly thank you for what you’re going to be doing in support of the security of our nation and commonwealth,” Ring said.

Since 2017, when the Bats were reconstituted, this will be their fourth and final home. As a tenant unit at JBLE, the 192nd Wing has relied on its host unit, the 633rd Air Base Wing, for providing work spaces for each of the 192nd Wing’s groups and squadrons. Oftentimes, these spaces were temporarily leased, leading to units having to relocate multiple times. The 185th COS building is the first to be built and owned on the installation by the 192nd Wing.

“We move around a lot, that’s part of the deal,” said Lange. “But they don’t have to move anymore. They can now focus on getting after the mission. This is also a big deal because we are putting down roots. I can’t overstate the importance of place in the identity of an organization's culture. You must have a place. If you are just an organization, without somewhere to call your home, it is never truly going to take that next step to being a highly effective lethal organization…This place also establishes intent. The 192nd Wing of the Virginia Air National Guard, we are of Langley. We serve at Langley AFB, this is our home. We have established intent, we have put down roots. And, as the oldest military organization in the United States, the National Guard will not be a footnote in Langley’s history. We are of the history, starting today.”

The 10,400 square foot building, costing about $10.3 million, supports the 185th COS and has an expanded operations floor and server room with office space for daily administrative duties. The facility is integrated into the new Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) campus on Langley for co-located intelligence operations and allows the squadron to perform all functions of both federal and state mission sets without reliance on other units and resources.

“It’s often said that stronger steel is a result of a hotter forge,” said Lange, addressing the Bats. “This squadron has faced a lot of adversity in its new history, and they have met those challenges head on and have succeeded. It’s thanks to each of the Bats present today, and some not here, for facing up to those challenges that we can take this next step into the future. This is a home built through grit, determination, and meticulous attention to detail."

Lange said that building a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) is not easy, and while the Bats were building the facility, they were also busy building the actual Airmen in the squadron.

"You were working on the culture, the standard of excellence, combat mission readiness, mobilizing and demobilizing, leading missions for the Commonwealth, leading federal missions, multiple engagements with our friends in Finland, strengthening partnerships across the community, the country, and the globe," Lange said. "You’ve earned this place. So, the forge was hot, and your fighting position has emerged. You are now ready to join the legacy of the 185th all the way back to those nights over the Meuse-Argonne when your forebears and our common ancestor with our brothers who are launching right now,” he added as F-22 Raptors launched nearby.

The youngest Airman in the 185th COS was selected to cut the ribbon. “It feels like a great honor to be part of the start of an important chapter for the Bats,” he said. “The unit has been very helpful with getting me adjusted since transferring from the Army. As our unit continues to grow, I want to pass on the hospitality and knowledge to future Bats so the 185th can achieve even greater accomplishments in the future.”

The Bats provide cyber incident response support to the state of Virginia along with working with their Virginia Army National Guard counterparts in the 91st Cyber Brigade for both state support and with the State Partnership Program.

NOTE: The names of the youngest Bat and the squadron historian were not included for operational security reasons.

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