FORT BELVOIR, Va. (March 27, 2014) -- Fort Belvoir played host to the Cyber - Digital Master Gunner Solution Course, March 3-21.
The course, a new three-week pilot program developed by U.S. Army Communications - Electronics Command's Field Support Branch, invited Soldiers and network professionals from U.S. Army Cyber Command, and the 1st Information Operations Command (Land) to participate in hands-on training in the increasingly important fields of offensive and defensive network activity, such as hacking and scanning for enemy vulnerabilities.
According to James P. Hollingsworth, the lead instructor for the course, immersion into scenarios replicating real-world environments, which students may face on the digital battlefield, is very important to this training.
"It is extremely important to create real-world scenarios," said Hollingsworth. "When an infantry Soldier trains, they focus on what is relevant, like preparing fighting positions. Our signal and cyber Soldiers will do the same, but on a virtual battlefield."
The course culminated with a "capstone" training event, during which students were expected to react to a simulated attack and were evaluated on their application of the principles learned during the training.
Students worked together in groups to identify and respond to threats, and to develop a defense against future, similar network attacks.
"It's very challenging," said Thieu Nguyen, with 1st IO Command (Land). "We learned both defensive and offensive skills, and learned to use tools for attacking enemy networks and securing our own."
With a sense of how to react to real-world situations and potential threats, students can not only hone their skills in cyber defense, they can also use their newly-acquired knowledge to evaluate their own networks with a critical eye.
"By training on relevant offensive cyber operations, students are prepared for real-world situations, such as how to properly respond to an incident," Hollingsworth said. "A strong offensive action will preoccupy the opposition and hinder its ability to mount an opposing counter-attack, leading to a strategic advantage for us."
Additionally, students graduating this course are expected to take their expertise back to their units and help coworkers learn some of the tactics, tips and tricks for their own use in defending Army networks and protecting Army interests.
"We emphasized on a train-the-trainer environment, so that the warfighter can take this curriculum and all of its contents back to their unit," Hollingsworth said. "Not only does this benefit the war-fighter, but assists the Army with implementing cost-effective, high-quality training."
The three-week course made its debut at Fort Belvoir, but is planned to be offered at other installations and commands in the future.