CAMP MURRAY, WA, UNITED STATES -- In today's battlefield, the fight in the digital and cyberspace domain is just as crucial as that on the front lines. That is why the Washington National Guard's 252nd Cyberspace Operations Group was selected to lead the first-ever cyberspace field training exercise as a part of Cobra Gold.
Since 2014, the Washington National Guard has been considered a national leader in the cyber operations and security field. After working to build up the program in the state, the unit's leadership felt it was time to begin sharing their knowledge with the Royal Thai Army, Washington's long-time National Guard State Partnership Program partner.
"The exercise serves a key role in Washington Air National Guard's partnership with the Royal Thai Air Force and Royal Thai Armed Forces under the State Partnership Program," said Maj. Jason Silves, plans officer with the 262nd Cyberspace Operations Squadron and exercise director. "This groundbreaking exercise establishes the foundation for cyberspace operations integration into Exercise Cobra Gold."
The joint exercise featured Airmen from the Washington National Guard working with Marines from the 7th Communications Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force and soldiers, sailors and airmen from the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
"Our airmen were at the heart of making the exercise a success," said Silves. "Col. Ken Borchers co-chaired the exercise sponsorship, Capt. Matt Bearup built the 'adversary' events introduced into the range to test cyberspace operators, Tech. Sgt. Brandon Whitley and Airmen 1st Class Matt Laroche built the training range and managed the daily training events."
For many, it felt like this was the culmination of many hours of traveling, meeting with and working side by side with the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
"The cyber partnership between the Royal Thai Armed Forces and Royal Thai Air Force has been in the works for more than four years," said Silves. "This cyberspace FTX was designed to give teams the ability to practice defensive tactics, techniques and procedures and exercise command and control of cyber operators. We have seen the progress in our partners leading up to the exercise and even during the exercise our partners were incorporating lessons learned and improving their TTPs."
Silves also acknowledges that this exercise wouldn't have happened if not for the support from their Thai partners and the Marine Corps. The cyber exercise is critical to the evolution of the Cobra Gold exercise. The ultimate goal is to integrate the cyber exercise into the command post exercise providing a realistic training environment for participants.
"We were very successful. As a direct result of the exercise, five additional nations have pledged to send cyberspace operators to Cobra Gold 20," said Silves. "This would be the largest multi-national exercise of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region."