FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Soldiers and Army Civilians from the U.S. Army Cyber School, Army Cyber Command, the Cyber Protection Brigade, 704th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade, and the 780th MI Brigade (Cyber), competed in the 6th annual Army Cyber Skills Challenge (ACSC VI) for the honor of being named the best Cyberspace Warrior on November 16.
Competitors participated in the three-day ACSC VI event, simultaneously, at Fort Gordon, Ga., Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Fort Meade, Md., and Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
The physical portion of the competition began on Nov. 14 with a modified Army Physical Fitness Test, followed by a 6.2 mile road march, the Army Combat Readiness Test, four Army Warrior Tasks, and a day land navigation course. The 24-hour technical portion of the event, which tested the participants' cyberspace skills, began on November 15th through midday on the 16th, and was followed by the award ceremony recognizing the top competitors from the physical and tactical portion, the technical portion, and the overall best cyber warrior.
According to event organizers, there were more than 100 competitors participating in this year's cyber challenge, doubling the field from last year and the first time Soldiers and Civilians competed from Texas.
"ACSC is a competition to truly test the overall Cyber Soldier concept, not just the nerd, but the Soldier too," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Troy Ward, the technical director for the Joint Military Operations Center and one of the ACSC event organizers. "It's important for our Soldiers, and the Army overall, to know that our guys can still deploy anywhere, anytime and be able to perform the same basic tasks that are expected of everyone else in the Army. The part that I found very interesting was the scores for the Army Combat Readiness Test portion of the physical event. Everyone who competed passed with at least 60 points in each event tested (based on the draft standards Army Times has published)."
The ACSC VI Physical and Tactical event champion is Sgt. Lance Pace from Detachment Hawaii, 782nd MI Battalion (Cyber), and the Technical event champion is Sgt. Jonathan Haubrich, 782nd MI Battalion (Cyber), Fort Gordon. This year's Best Cyberspace Warrior is Sgt. Jonathan Haubrich, a cyberspace operations specialist (17C) from Bellmawr, New Jersey.
"Competing in ACSC was an incredible opportunity to put my skills and knowledge to the test. It was also a great opportunity to hack away in a room full of like-minded people," said Haubrich. "I have never gone to a live CTF (capture the flag) or anything similar in the past, and the experience was awesome!"
Ward said the 24-hour technical portion tested the competitors on a variety of topics from forensics, to reverse engineering, to cryptography. The challenges ranged from entry level to highly advanced. He stated more than 1,400 flags were captured over the course of the competition.
Haubrich's advice for future competitors?
"In general, stay hungry," said Haubrich. "Learn to love the work, and never stop learning. For ACSC, preparation is key - Exercise, read the regulations, and practice, practice, practice."
Because the ACSC competition is geographically dispersed throughout the United States - in Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, and Texas - event organizers hope to entice participants from throughout the U.S. Army, active, National Guard, and Army Reserve, and are working toward the goal of not only crowning the best Army Cyberspace Warrior, but it becoming a recognized badge for Cyberspace, Electronic Warfare, and IT-affiliated Soldiers.
Col. Brian Vile, the commander of 780th MI Brigade, foresees the competition growing into an equivalent of other MOS-specific badges such as the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Expert Field Medical Badge. "EIB and EFMB are recognized across the Army as a mark of excellence. Cyber, like the Infantry and medical communities, requires a mark to identify the top-tier talent that has demonstrated an ability to perform above the standard in both the land and cyber domains."