CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Game shows, expert briefers, team challenges and equipment training. What sounds like a weekend team-building retreat or educational seminar was actually a gathering here of cyber professionals to test their skills and knowledge -- the United States Army Central (ARCENT) Best Cyber Warrior Competition, now in its fifth year.
This year's event also included a special participant -- Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon, U.S. Army Cyber Command's senior enlisted leader, who came to see the skills of U.S. military cyber professionals put to the test.
"This competition is important for building the capabilities and the knowledge and experience of the competitors," said Lyon, as they share best practices and "watch and observe their peers in action and see how they address situations."
Lyon watched as cyber professionals from across the Department of Defense and their coalition partners here demonstrated their proficiency in warrior tasks, physical fitness and cyber skills. As they competed, contestants also participated in educational sessions with top cyber experts from DoD and the National Security Agency, and Jim West, award-winning author and creator of ARCENT's original "Cyber Bowl" competition.
Best Cyber Warrior Competition events included setting up and using a military radio; calling in a "nine-line" medical evacuation request; assembling and disassembling small arms; competing in knowledge-based, cyber-themed games; preparing a briefing on cyber issues; and tackling a timed physical fitness challenge.
There were four games in the competition, three of which were styled after popular U.S. television game shows: "Cyber Jeopardy!", "Cyber Millionaire", and "Are you Smarter than a Cyber Tech?" The fourth game," Cyber Infinity Wars", was a sudden-death style trivia game unique to the competition.
"During 'Cyber Infinity Wars', each of the teams had a set amount of time to answer the same question," said Capt. Andrew Galazzo of the 335th Signal Command (Theater) (Provisional), who served as host for the Best Cyber Warrior Competition. "The ... game was a great analogy for cybersecurity because, much like in the real cybersecurity world, a single mistake can result in major consequences. In the game, a single mistake resulted in elimination. Whereas in the real world, the consequences of a single mistake can have far-reaching negative impacts."
The fitness event called on competitors to complete push-ups, water jug carries, a fireman's carry of a teammate, and a quarter-mile run, and to correctly answer a cyber-related question after each physical task.
A "cyber range" event challenged teams to restore a simulated website that had been hacked. Teams had to use their cyber knowledge, comprehension skills and reasoning abilities to piece together clues to identify the culprit, determine what and how much damage had been done to the website, and to undo the damage.
The U.S. military competitors were joined by Kuwaiti cyber professionals, demonstrating U.S. and Kuwait cyber cooperation. Originally scheduled to attend as observers, the Kuwait military team competed in some of the events, and ultimately took home second place in the "Are you Smarter than a Cyber Tech?" game.
The team from the 335th Signal Command (Theater) (Provisional) took home the grand prize and were deemed the 2019 Best Cyber Warriors. In addition to the team being awarded the grand prize trophy and a streamer for their company guidon, each team member was presented with a coin from Command Sgt. Maj. Lyon, and awarded an Army Achievement Medal from Brig. General Nikki Griffin Olive, commanding general of the 335th Signal Command (T)(P).
"I truly enjoyed the 2019 Best Cyber Warrior Competition because of the number of teams, and their ability to participate and to showcase their capabilities, and the attendance of our coalition partners, the Kuwaitis, shows they want to build and continue to increase our cooperation and our partnership," Lyon said. [This competition] was a good representation of the ability to work together, knowing that in the future, that's what it's going to take to counter cyber attacks."