By Steven P. StoverApril 26, 2018
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) hosted an unprecedented transition of authority ceremony between two Army National Guard formations on a field near the brigade headquarters here, April 19. During the ceremony one cyber battalion transitioned with another to continue the Task Force Echo cyberspace mission.
For the past year Task Force Echo (TFE) has worked with the 780th MI Brigade to conduct cyberspace operations in support of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and the Cyber National Mission Force. The Task Force is aligned under the 780th, which in turn falls under the operational control of U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER).
The outgoing TFE formation, the 123rd Cyber Protection Battalion (CPB), was comprised of more than 140 Army National Guard Soldiers from seven states -- California, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Utah and Virginia.
The second iteration of TFE consists of National Guard Soldiers assigned to TFE 125th CPB, and these cyber warriors hail from Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
"Task Force Echo is an opportunity not only for the nation, but for the National Guard to step up and meet an ever-growing challenge, that is a worldwide challenge," said Maj. Gen. R. Van McCarty, the Assistant Adjutant General -- Army, South Carolina National Guard. "We see it every day, the potential impacts that we face in the cyber arena. Having young Soldiers that are trained and prepared to help meet those challenges is important."
The TFE mobilization is historic in that it marks the first Army National Guard task force mobilization of this size to support USCYBERCOM operations full time, and is a testament to the Army's commitment to the Total Force in defense of networks against the Nation's adversaries.
In the past year, the Soldiers of TFE 123rd CPB have completed more than 38,000 hours of technical training and supported more than 1,500 ARCYBER and USCYBERCOM missions. As a result of their proven success the Department of Defense extended the TFE mission, which resulted in the transition of the current formation of Army National Guard Soldiers with a new team of cyber warriors.
"(On) the 15th of March, the Secretary of Defense approved the extension -- the establishment of the next iteration of Task Force Echo. It has never been done in that fashion before…never happened for a CONUS-based unit," said Brig. Gen. JP McGee, ARCYBER deputy commanding general of operations. "When we properly articulated the role you (the TFE) play…he understood the unique contributions of this organization."
During the ceremony, Col. Dave Branch, commander of the 780th MI Brigade, summed up the accomplishments of the 123rd CPB and the importance of the TFE mission.
"Task Force Echo relies on Soldiers with diverse technical backgrounds. They come with the extensive experience that only comes from working in defensive cyberspace positions throughout the private sector and in the completion of the extensive training required to be a cyber warrior," said Branch.
"During a recent awards ceremony, Brig. Gen. JP McGee made mention of how important it would be for the departing Soldiers of Task Force Echo to take back with them all of the valuable lessons learned from their time here at Fort Meade. I second that sentiment, for it is only through continuous collaboration on the singular purpose of protecting our nation, that we will ultimately prevail against those who would seek to do us harm."
Dignitaries attending the event included Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, ARCYBER commanding general; ARCYBER Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon; Maj. Gen. Patricia Frost, director of cyber, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7; Maj. Gen. JT Taylor, special assistant to the director, U.S. Army National Guard for Operations, Plans, and Strategy; Maj. Gen. R. Van McCarty, Deputy Adjutant General, South Carolina; Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commanding general, ARCYBER; Chad Acey, senior cyber advisor to the commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence & Security Command; Col. John Delaney, chief of staff, ARCYBER; Col. David Jenkins, South Carolina National Guard; Col. Robert Mitchell, New York National Guard; Timothy Keasling, Virginia National Guard; and Command Sgt. Maj. Kody Nelson, Utah National Guard.
The incoming and outgoing task forces are part of the 91st Cyber Brigade, the Army National Guard's first and only cyber brigade, which first unfurled its colors in September 2017. According to their mission statement, the brigade provides training, readiness and oversight of all Army National Guard Cyber Protection Battalions in order to provide ready, fully resourced, and proficient forces capable of conducting cyberspace operations in support of state and federal requirements. The brigade, comprised of Soldiers in 30 states, conducts cyberspace and information operations as authorized or directed to ensure freedom of action in and through cyberspace and the information environment and to deny the same to any adversary.
Col. Adam Volant, the outgoing TFE 123rd CPB commander, will command the 91st Cyber Brigade, and along with the other departing Soldiers of the first iteration of TFE, will form the nucleus of state assigned cyber protection teams and fall under the newly activated Army National Guard unit based out of Bowling Green, Va.