WIESBADEN, Germany -- During the past six months, Soldiers, Civilians, and Contractors from the Robert E. Gray Regional Cyber Center -- Europe participated in the Network Enterprise Technology Command led cyber defense exercise, Gaining Cyber Dominance, and took home first place among all five of the Army's Regional Cyber Centers.

In coordination with Carnegie Mellon University, the Gaining Cyber Dominance exercise assesses a unit's ability to detect, protect, and respond to live-fire cyber-attacks on a virtual network. Gaining Cyber Dominance consists of three ramp-up exercises called 'Mercury Challenge,' and the final exercise called "Elite Mercury". During these exercises each of the Army's five Regional Cyber Centers conducts operations in a virtual environment.

In its seventh year, this long standing partnership with Carnegie Mellon University enables cyber network defenders across NETCOM to validate tools and processes against simulated threats. And, after months of preparation and small scale practice exercises, the RCC -- Europe Team performed admirably in the culminating event of the Gaining Cyber Dominance exercise, the 'Elite Mercury' competition.

Slugging it through the very close competition, RCC - Europe Soldiers, Civilians, and Contractors finished first place in the Elite Mercury Challenge, and for the first time in the unit's history, was named 'Regional Cyber Center of the Year.'

"It [Elite Mercury Challenge] gives us an opportunity to validate our response to an 'adversary' that managed to penetrate our network perimeter," said Lt. Col. Howie Smyth, Director of Regional Cyber Center -- Europe.

After a third place finish last year, the team examined existing gaps and made incremental changes to the center's tools, processes, and procedures, said Smyth.

Presenting the first time award to the elite team at the Robert E. Gray Regional Cyber Center -- Europe was the NETCOM Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett. Barrett spoke about the professionalism and comradery that made it possible for the RCC -- Europe team to take home the top spot in the Elite Mercury Challenge.

Barrett, during a trip to visit NETCOM troops in Europe, presented the award in person in front of the Robert E. Gray center in Wiesbaden, Germany, allowing the entire team of RCC cyber warriors to partake in the award presentation.

"At the end of the day, it's all about us validating our ability to secure the network so that Commanders can conduct their warfighting functions and I couldn't be more proud of our Regional Cyber Center -- Europe Team," Smyth said.