More than a dozen Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers participated in the National Guard’s Cyber Shield 20 exercise Sept 12-27. Members of Idaho’s Defense Cyber Operations Element were among nearly 600 Soldiers from more than 40 states who participated in the two-week training event.The defensively focused tactical annual cyber exercise was hosted virtually this year and gave Idaho Soldiers the chance to develop and use their cyber defense skills while building key relationships with the state’s Office of Information Technology Services, its mission partner, during the exercise.“We ensure the state understands our capabilities and that if called upon, we can respond within the legal bounds of cyber defense,” said Col. Dan Lister, IDARNG Chief Information Officer.During the exercise, each team worked with a mission partner representing an industry partner. Teams assessed networks for vulnerabilities and assisted in recovery operations after a cyber incident.“It sharpens the skills of our cyber-warriors, who hone their skills throughout the year and the come here ready to lock and load on their weapon systems, their computers,” said Maj. Eric Burgan, the team’s deputy team chief.Teams spent the first week of the exercise training on cyber threat analysis, systems analysis, information control systems and information operations. The second week tested Soldiers’ skills while conducting cyber incident response and network defense operations.In previous years, the exercise focused on a weeklong scenario held in person at a central location, but with teams spread out across the country to accommodate Covid-19 safety restrictions, exercises focused on two vignettes per day, which were designed to test specific skill sets.Burgan said training alongside the state’s IT office allows the team to build trust at the top level that extends to Idaho’s local cities and counties. Across the nation, National Guard DCOEs work with public partners to asses vulnerabilities and help protect public networks.Idaho’s DCOE stood up in 2016 with the intent to train with community partners and respond to any cyber emergencies within the state, similar to other emergency missions the Idaho National Guard performs.