By Mr. Steven P StoverJune 19, 2017
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- The 2017 CyberTitans Challenge II (CTC II) competition pitted teams of Army cyber warriors against one another in a nail biter that had to go into overtime to determine the champion here on June 16.
Ultimately, it was team Unkindness, consisting of Sgt. Brandon Bushnell, Spc. Elijah Harmon, Spc. Nicholas Cranston, and Pfc. Elijah Frederickson, of the 742nd Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion, 704th MI Brigade, that won the competition even though their team captain, Bushnell, left the event when he was notified his wife was in labor.
Team Unkindness beat out seven other teams from the 704th MI and 780th MI brigades in a cyber skills competition in which the Soldiers used their computers, commercial software, and information provided by cadre to penetrate other networks and defend their own from attack.
Hosted by Echo Company, 782nd MI Battalion, 780th MI Brigade, CTC II is much more than just a cyber skills competition. The teams were expected to use their work-related skills in the operational, analytical, linguistics, and developmental areas, as well as successfully translate the following languages in the network: English, Spanish, Russian, and Persian.
"CyberTitans is not just a competition, it is a training event for the Soldiers and Civilians," said Sgt. 1st Class Terrance Smith, event organizer, Echo Company, 782nd MI Battalion. "We are incorporating real-world possibilities into scenarios to give the competitors a realistic feel, and then we take the concepts and ideas of what makes an actual cyber mission and model it toward a combat mission team -- challenges these teams could potentially encounter in their every-day work."
According to Smith, who first came up with the idea for the competition in 2015, CTC II is an annual event developed by the enlisted Soldiers which, at its core, is a 'capture the flag' event. However, he said CTC II was also designed to refine and teach Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians the tactics, techniques, and procedures they use to accomplish their real-world mission.
Other competitors agree that CTC II stands apart from other cyber competitions. "CyberTitans is this most comprehensive, challenging event that I have seen so far," said Staff Sgt. David Dodson, team Trash Panda, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 782nd MI Battalion. "It really aligns with where cyber is going. It combines both the offensive and defensive side. It brings together the analytical piece as well as the operational piece, and as a result of that, this is really good training."
For one competitor, Spc. Kyle Markham, team Lightning Octopus, 741st MI Battalion, 704th MI Brigade, CTC II was an opportunity to retain and refine his core fundamental skills. Markham was a computer science engineering student before deciding to join the Army. After joining the Army and completing Basic Training, Markham attended the Joint Cyber Analysis Course in Pensacola, Florida, and since arriving at his unit, he's received certification in Computing Technology Industry Association (COMP TIA) Network +, a vendor neutral networking certification; COMP TIA Security +, a vendor neutral IT security knowledge and skills certification; Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH); and Cisco Certified Network Technician (CCNT).
"They've really given me about every skill you can think of," said Markham. "Because the Army gave me these skills, I'm able to apply them effectively, and that makes me a better Soldier, a better 'Cyber Warrior.'"
Although each of these team members represented the best of the best, only one team could come out on top. Following the 'capture the flag' and 'attack and defend' phases of the competition, the Unkindness and Krewe Krewe team, from Delta Company, 781st MI Battalion, were tied. In a tie-breaking event, both teams selected a team member to answer a series of cyber-related questions in five minutes, and it was team Unkindness that left the field savoring the victory.
Team Unkindness attributed their victory to early team preparations, which included studying the content from the courses they had attended, identical to Markham's, as well as reviewing and analyzing the intelligence provided by the cadre which included Rosetta Stone for the different languages, and other intelligence, such as which Internet Protocols to penetrate and which host names to target.
"We were kind of the underdogs going into this. We came into this late," said Cranston. "We also lost one of our members who had to attend to the birth of his child. This was a great win for the 704th and for Charlie Company, 742nd (MI Battalion)."
Though it was a great win for team Unkindness, Chief Warrant Officer 5 John O'Reilly, the 780th MI Brigade senior warrant officer, summed it up best at the award ceremony: "We're all Soldiers. No matter what unit we represent, we all enjoyed the competition and more importantly, the training, and we come away from this event all the better for it."
One Soldier, Bushnell, even came away as a father; just in time for Father's Day.