By Capts. Sam Thode & Steve Willson, U.S. Army Cyber SchoolApril 15, 2016
FORT GORDON, Ga. (March 1, 2016) -- Twenty Soldiers attending the first Cyber Basic Officer Leaders Course made history for the U.S. Army Cyber School as they participated in a combined tactical and technical field exercise. This exercise trained them in the troop leading procedures and operations order process and culminated with neutralizing a target wireless intranet.
Members of the Cyber School staff developed the scenario over the last six weeks. The initial idea came from members of the Cyber Mission Force who envisioned Soldiers training on the control network of a live fire machine gun range. The exercise later expanded into a fully modular air-gapped network which can be tailored to specific real-world scenarios.
Training for the exercise began two weeks prior to execution. Before preparing their operations orders, students attending BOLC trained in network security testing taught by Soldiers currently attending the Cyber Captains Career Course. This construct exemplifies the "learn it, teach it" attitude of the Cyber School and helps develop the mentorship culture of the branch, with senior students instructing junior students. Soldiers in the career course had the opportunity to interact with the recently commissioned officers with whom they will serve in the future.
After the technical instruction, students received a week long course on the Army operations planning process. During a class on the troop leading procedures, cadre provided the students with instruction on developing a platoon level operation from a company level plan. Throughout the rest of the week, students went through the full troop leading procedures, from receiving a company level mission to planning and executing a platoon level operation.
The student's mission was to compromise a simulated enemy air defense control system. Upon receiving their orders the students went through the planning process and briefed their plans to school cadre. Based on his strong performance, instructors selected 2nd Lt. Askia Mapp to act as the platoon leader for the execution of the operation.
"The field exercise was an enriching, experience which helped illustrate what cyber operations could look like in the future. I think we all appreciated getting a first-person glimpse of how cyber nests within the Army mission," Mapp said.
The exercise commenced the next day with the Soldiers conducting a tactical movement from a remote insertion point to their objective. During the movement the students were tested in basic Soldier skills including react to contact and evaluate and evacuate casualties. Once the Soldiers reached their rally point and set security they transitioned to the technical portion of their operation. The platoon crept forward in squad sized elements to exploit vulnerabilities and compromise machines running on a notional enemy Wi-Fi network.
Students developed the enemy scenario and set up the target computer network. Recently stood up, the Cyber School's minimal resources required assistance provided by the Signal School's 442nd Signal and 551st Signal battalions for use of tactical equipment.
"We are focused on instilling the will to fight and win through adverse conditions. We are in the business of training the finest Soldiers in the world," said 1st Sgt. Alexander Perea, Army Cyber School first sergeant.
The Army Cyber School continues to build the capacity for students to learn the operational planning skills necessary to understand the mindset of maneuver commanders they will support. The tactical exercise teaches students the skills to lead within the cyber branch, where they will project the nation's power through cyberspace. Lessons learned from the operation will be used to revise and expand the scenario for future exercises.