CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. -- By working closely with interagency partners and the private sector, the National Guard seeks to strengthen network cybersecurity and leverage new and emerging technologies for homeland defense.

"This exercise provides a very technical defensive cyber ecosystem with a Defensive Cyber Operations Element training focus," said Ohio National Guard Lt. Col. Teri Williams, the exercise commander. "Cyber Shield truly is a crucible where industry cyber talent merges with our military forces and the result is a more polished, tuned, and stronger response capability."

Cyber Shield 18 is part of the National Guard's ongoing effort to be a versatile capability for governors of all 54 states and territories. This is the seventh iteration of this training exercise.

The exercise centers around two phases: the first week offers participants the opportunity to learn from leaders in military, government and the private sector in academic instruction focusing on vital cyber skills.

The second week challenges the National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, as they face off against trained adversaries. The teams utilize their unique talents to defend networks and mitigate the effects of attacks against vulnerable infrastructure.

Cyber Shield is also unique in the fact that it is planned and executed by a volunteer staff of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers and Airmen over the course of 11 months.

"The exercise is planned by a staff that is truly passionate about improving the cyber defense of our Nation," said Williams. "In working with this group, I've witnessed firsthand many talented, dedicated volunteers who are passionate in their quest to improve homeland defense through cyber security."

The National Guard is uniquely suited for cyber operations if an incident occurs. Because of their status as a state military force when not under federal mobilization orders, Guard units are uniquely positioned to respond quickly in situations where federal response may not have appropriate authority.

Moreover, many of these participants, being part time Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, work in the cyber field in the private sector, which provides an overwhelming amount of experience to this exercise.

"Individual technicians must take their technical skills to collective and collaborative levels in order to be successful," said Williams. "We are committed to providing our participants with challenging and realistic training in order to protect our homeland."