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NEWS | July 1, 2024

Unit certification a key accomplishment during Cyber Shield

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

As National Guard and Reserve Soldiers and Airmen joined civilian cyber professionals and international partners for Cyber Shield 24 from May 31 to June 15, 2024, the Virginia National Guard’s 91st Cyber Brigade conducted CERTEX 24 to validate multiple units for future Title 10 active-duty federal mobilizations. Both exercises were hosted at the VNG’s State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for the first time.
“CERTEX 24 was a tremendous success with the validation of multiple cyber protection teams who are now ready for federal active-duty mobilizations,” said Col. Rusty McGuire, commander of the 91st Cyber Brigade. “We also validated SMR as a capable host installation for future cyber exercises, and the lessons learned this year will help improve the facilities for future use.”
Four cyber protection teams were validated on mission essential tasks required to be ready for mobilization. In addition to validating Army cyber teams based in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s 102nd Cyber Operations Squadron was also certified.
“This was the first time we conducted a certification in a joint environment,” McGuire said. “The leadership team from the 102nd consistently thanked us for allowing them to participate, and they provided their commander to help evaluate an Army cyber protection team.”
McGuire said the nearly $500,000 investment in improving infrastructure at SMR paid off, and the location proved to be a great location for cyber exercises. While there were some growing pains with an exercise of nearly 1,000 participants, the key lessons learned were captured for any issues to be addressed before any future exercises are conducted.
McGuire also commended the Virginia Army National Guard G6 information management directorate for the preparation of the network as well as their support during the exercise.
The senior leaders and staff of the 91st also hosted a delegation of senior Finnish military officers and provided a capabilities briefing to help them gain a better understanding of VNG cyber capabilities. The Virginia National Guard and Finland recently joined together in the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, and Finnish troops will participate in future cyber exercises.
The 91st Cyber Brigade is the first and only Army National Guard Cyber Brigade in the country with units located in more than 30 different states. The brigade’s five cyber protection battalions each employ two cyber protection teams whose primary mission is defensive cyberspace operations. All CPTs within the brigade are validated against U.S. Cyber Command standards.

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