FORT MEADE, Md. -- The term "cyber Soldier" sounds like something out of a futuristic action film. But that's exactly what to call the Soldiers from the 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade who serve under U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER). These Soldiers are part of the elite team at ARCYBER tasked with defending Army networks and providing full-spectrum cyber capabilities.
In addition, the 780th MI Brigade also conducts expeditionary cyberspace operations and training in support of armored brigade combat teams stationed at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. It has offered home station training for the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (2-1 ABCT), Fort Riley, Kan., in preparation for its NTC rotation since last November.
This is not the first time the cyber brigade has supported an Army combat training center rotation. ARCYBER established a pilot program in 2015 to build unit cyber capacity and to help the Army to operationalize cyber at all echelon levels. Additionally, the program seeks to strengthen other capabilities including information operations, intelligence and electronic warfare.
Helping tactical units maintain the initiative in cyberspace domain requires clear communication between the cyber brigade and the tactical unit's leaders. "From our experience over several rotations, we have learned that early integration with the supporting BCT is paramount to success at NTC," said Lt. Col. Justin Considine, commander of the 781st MI Battalion, Fort Meade, Md.
"Only when we gain the trust and confidence of the BCT Commander and his staff are we able to successfully integrate our capabilities into his operational planning," he said. "Simply put, the supported Commander will not trust our technology if he does not trust that we are members of his team. This process begins at the BCT's home station six months prior to NTC and also ensures our [cyber] troops understand as much as possible about how the BCT fights and what is important to the Commander."
Additionally, the 780th MI Brigade has also trained units to develop cyber warfighting scenarios that enhance the cyber training environment at NTC. According to Maj. Scott Bobier, the cyber brigade support operations officer-in-charge, "This program offers maneuver combat units awareness of cyber key terrain that, if controlled, will provide a clear tactical advantage" for the Soldiers who complete the training.
The training also offers feedback for the cyber brigade as well, helping to inform Army discussions about offensive and defensive cyber doctrine that will help define the future structure and integration of cyber training and support into tactical units and decision-making processes.
"What we are learning and applying must be applicable to real-world operations, which is the ultimate test of anything conducted in a training environment," said Considine. "Secondly, the future of multi-domain battle demands we build our capacity to conduct expeditionary cyber warfare in all phases of operational planning -- from initial access and reconnaissance in Phases 0 and 1 through open hostilities in Phase 2 and 3."