The Maryland Guard HOA teams bring unique skills and experience in specialties to plan for electronic warfare, cyber, and operational security. The goal is to gain and maintain the advantage in a complex informational environment.

For one of those members, Army Lt. Col. Stephen P. Gerber, the experience is all too familiar since the last time he supported the HOA mission just four-years ago.

Gerber, who will serve as the CJTF-HOA IO officer, or J-39, views this up-coming deployment as a meaningful opportunity to align the National Defense Strategy with information-related functions the mission will involve.

"The Power of Soft Power is so important to this operation," Gerber said. "Building the relationships and trust needed to effectively operate in this type of environment is how we'll accomplish our mission."

A defense civilian working for U.S. Cyber Command during his everyday life, Gerber can easily apply his full-time civilian profession to supporting the Department of Defense and State Department's strategic mission at CJTF-HOA.

"My full-time civilian role with Cyber Command complements the military responsibilities I'll be assigned with U.S. African Command," said Gerber. "I'm ready to lead the team and be an added value overall.

Another team member and intelligence specialist, Sgt. 1st Class Quinten C. Steele, also related his full-time civilian experience to the work he'll have with CJTF-HOA.

Steele, formerly a defense contractor, worked as a traveling instructor responsible for training U.S. Army intel specialists in various operational environments around the world.

"Intel collection assists with understanding the operational environment," said Steele. "Using our IO skills, we can help the public get what they need in terms of assistance."

Steele, who previously deployed twice while serving on active duty, sees this deployment as an opportunity to give back to the Maryland Guard.

"It means a lot to me knowing that I'm doing this for my unit and state," Steele said.

The 110th IO Battalion, subordinate to the 58th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, has, for the past 10-years, supported 11 HOA rotations since it transformed from an artillery battalion in 2009.

"It's critical for the U.S. Army to continue this unique IO expertise to the CJTF-HOA," said Army Col. Julie M. Minde, 58th EMIB commander. "In today's operational environment, where information dominates, we've seen an increased demand from combatant commands for the specialized integrator."

To Minde, these rotations are highly beneficial to the Maryland Army National Guard.

"The deployments we support are essential to our intel and IO community with the brigade," Minde said. "This is one more opportunity for the highly skilled intel and IO experts we have in this unit to teach others and acquire new skills within a COCOM environment."

The IO Bn supports operations in Afghanistan supporting special operations forces while simultaneously providing the IO teams to CJTF-HOA.

Army Lt. Col. Kristin L. Henry and Command Sgt. Maj. Alonzo L. Amison command the IO Bn and focus on the strategic benefit these missions bring to their formations.

"We are a small piece of IO and intel in the grand scheme of U.S. Army force structure, but we make a world of difference through each one of our team members supporting these global missions," Henry said.