CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. (April 22, 2016) --- Cyber warriors from across the country gathered here April 18 to kick off Cyber Shield 2016, a defensively focused U.S. Army National Guard cyber training exercise designed to educate and enhance cyber-capable forces.

The first week of the exercise consisted of training classes to provide participants with recertification or continuing education credits used to maintain their existing credentials, and the second week consists of the actual training exercise during which teams will use their technical skills to defend their networks in all-out "digital war."

Lt. Col. Henry Capello, an information operations and cyber planner for the Louisiana Army National Guard, is the Cyber Shield 2016 exercise commander.

"Train as you fight," Capello said. "Cyber Shield is a premiere exercise the National Guard Bureau hosts for all 50 states and four territories to bring in their cyber defense operation elements, which helps us protect both the Guard-Net and the state's or territory's critical infrastructure and networks."

Exercise participants include members of the Army and Air National Guard, Army Reserve, U.S. Marine Corps, and civilians from state government agencies, federal agencies, industry partners and academia. "This is an opportunity for them to come here (and) train and hone their skills against a formidable enemy who mimics those actions of what we see every day," said Capello.

The training scenarios used during exercise week are designed to imitate real life by using a team system. Red Team is the opposing forces (OPFOR) duking it out on the virtual playground of "Cyber City" against its defenders, the Blue Team. The team system allows participants to react in real time to cyber training attacks and employ defensive maneuvers. This makes the first week's training critical to success during the second, exercise week. That week one training includes classes on intrusion detection, law of data security and threat analysis.

Capello said several methods were used to provide that training during the exercise, including paid courses, leveraging skilled Soldiers and Airmen to share their knowledge, or inviting academic partners to offer instruction.

Participants said that training makes Cyber Shield 2016 unique, because it is not usually a part of other cyber training exercises. For Warrant Officer candidate Tyler Hightree, a member of the Nebraska Army National Guard Cyber Network Defense Team who attended the intrusion detection course provided by the SANS Institute, it was a week packed full of virtual knowledge and a time for him to build stronger bonds with his fellow cyber warriors.

"(The classes) hard to get into or expensive. It's hard to get the state to pay for it," said Hightree. The training allows him to earn the hours required to maintain his information technology certifications and learn new skills that could be beneficial to him and the cybersecurity community.

"This is a whole new realm. Right now I'm more server administration and not as much security," said Hightree. "Not as many security principles have been applied, but with this training I can actually support our network administrator to provide better security."