Virginia National Guard Soldiers join multi-state Cyber Shield exercise
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fairfax-based 123rd Cyber Protection Battalion, 91st Cyber Brigade provide digital forensics support to identify indicators of compromise and the source of intrusion to help protect a customer network ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FAIRFAX, Va. -The Virginia National Guard's Bowling Green-based 91st Cyber Brigade completed the nationwide rollout of its ShadowNet enterprise solution July 19, 2019, with the integration of the 125th Cyber Protection Battalion into the solution's virtual private network. ShadowNet is a custom-built private cloud-based out of the brigade's data center in Fairfax, Virginia, that uses VPN connectivity to provide its aligned units with 24-hour, seven-days-a-week remote access to critical cyber training at both the collective and individual levels. The brigade successfully integrated its three other cyber protection battalions - the 123rd, 124th, and 126th Cyber Protection Battalions - into the ShadowNet platform last January.

"I'm extremely proud to announce that the Soldiers of the 91st Cyber Brigade have completed the construction and rollout of ShadowNet, a world-class enterprise solution designed to propel operational innovation in the field of cyber training," said Col. Adam C. Volant, commander of the 91st Cyber Brigade. "ShadowNet will allow us to leverage the expertise of cyber professionals across our four cyber protection battalions to build Soldier-centric programs and collective training environments that deliver breakthroughs in exercise complexity and cost-efficiency. Its robust capabilities and scalability will help to deliver the agility we need to keep pace with our partners in the private industry while outpacing our adversaries."

ShadowNet provides the interconnectivity, computing power, and storage required to support Shadow Labs, the 91st Cyber Brigade's innovative cyber training application, through which the brigade will offer cyber-related courses and exercises to improve proficiencies at all levels.

Individual Soldiers will be able to access an extensive catalog of cyber courses on their laptops to develop critical skill sets, while the brigade will use Shadow Labs to conduct collective cyber training exercises for its Cyber Protection Battalions, Cyber Security Companies, Cyber Warfare Companies, and Cyber Protection Teams.

"It's impossible to overstate the significance of such an innovative platform being conceived, designed and ultimately built at the Soldier level," Volant said. "Soldiers of the 91st Cyber Brigade who led this effort, like 1st Lt. Austin Jones and Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Sweeney, were able to leverage the unique skills and experience they brought with them from their civilian occupations to shepherd the ShadowNet project from its concept stage to its physical construction. The achievement of the ShadowNet solution is not only a testament to the expertise of the 91st Cyber Brigade's 'Shadow Warriors,' but emblematic of their nature as National Guard citizen-soldiers."

The 91st Cyber Brigade plans to use Shadow Labs to host Exercise Cyber Yankee for the first time in August of 2019 and Exercise Cyber Shield for the first time in 2020. Cyber Yankee trains Soldiers to react to domestic cyber attacks in defense of critical area networks, while the larger Cyber Shield exercise requires participants to defend networks and mitigate the effects of cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. The brigade expects the action of hosting major cyber exercises like these will provide its Soldiers with valuable experience, assist the growth of Shadow Labs' inventory of training scenarios and offer substantial cost savings for its aligned units. The Cyber Shield and Cyber Yankee exercises were previously executed by private-sector contractors.

A major contributing factor to the 91st Cyber Brigade's successful construction of the ShadowNet solution was its partnership with the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems. In addition to providing the funding that was crucial for the physical construction of ShadowNet, PEO EIS offered expert guidance on its design to ensure that the ShadowNet training environments would also respond to the requirements of the Total Force.

About PEO EIS:

PEO EIS is responsible for managing and providing the information technology network and business systems that Soldiers and the U.S. Army need to operate every day. More than 3,000 military, civilian and contractors make up a geographically dispersed workforce serving as the Army's trusted network and software acquisition professionals including network engineers, program managers, logisticians, IT specialists and cybersecurity experts. Our diverse portfolio of 37 program offices and 71 acquisition programs support and field Army and DOD communications, logistics, medical, finance, personnel, training and procurement systems for all ten combatant commands, managing approximately $3.5 billion each year.

About the 91st Cyber Brigade:

Activated in September of 2017, the Virginia Army National Guard's 91st Cyber Brigade, or "Shadow Brigade" provides training and readiness oversight of all Army National Guard Cyber Protection Battalions in order to provide ready, fully resourced and proficient forces capable of conducting full-spectrum cyberspace operations in support of State and Federal requirements. The brigade integrates the National Guard's strong relationships with State and local authorities and leverages the wide palette of skill sets to be found in the brigade's force structure, to include governmental, private sector and academia cybersecurity expertise. Operations currently supported by the 91st Cyber Brigade include Task Force-Echo, which provides critical support for U.S. Cyber Command to carry out cyberspace operations against adversaries. TF-E continues to be the largest mobilization of reserve-component forces for a Cyber unit in support of U.S. Cyber Command.

The 91st Cyber Brigade currently oversees Cyber Protection Battalions, Cyber Protection Teams, Cyber Security Companies and Cyber Warfare Companies operating in 31 of the U.S. States and Territories, with ongoing efforts to add additional states in 2019. States in which units aligned with the 91st Cyber Brigade can be found include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

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