The transition of authority between two Army National Guard battalions was a quiet and seamless affair, taking place without the traditional ‘pomp and circumstance’ normally associated with significant Army events.
The transition marked the end of a 15-month deployment for the Soldiers of the 124th Cyber Protection Battalion (CPB), who hail from Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Virginia and Utah, and the beginning for the Army National Guardsmen of the 123rd CPB, who call Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin their home states.
The battalions complete the fourth and begin the fifth iterations of Task Force Echo (TFE). TFE exists under the operational control of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) and enables cyberspace operations in support of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). The 780th MI Brigade falls under the operational control of U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER).
Col. Matthew Lennox, commander of the 780th MI Brigade, recently hosted an awards ceremony for the departing 124th CPB staff and remarked on the exceptional experience and expertise of the National Guard Soldiers.
Lennox said “I was impressed by the Soldiers of Tasks Force Echo IV. They brought their real world experience managing networks to the Army and made our organization better. Their knowledge and experience enabled teams within the Cyber National Mission Force and the different service Joint Force Headquarters to accomplish their mission. The Task Force Echo Soldiers were integral members of the brigade team.”
Command Sgt. Maj. (CSM) Timothy Hawley, the senior enlisted leader of the 124th CPB and TFE IV, commented on the challenges of COVID presented for their mission and how proud he is of the professionalism and dedication of his Soldiers.
“This deployment didn’t go as we all had envisioned it. COVID threw a wrench into all the things we had planned for our Soldiers this past year,” said Hawley. “We asked junior Soldiers to perform roles normally assigned to field grade officers and moved others into positions that they were not necessarily comfortable with. In the end the mission was extremely successful.”
“We pushed through some extremely important events in history without a hiccup or glitch,” added Hawley. “The professionalism and dedication of this Task Force was superb and second to none. It was a true testament of the (124th CPB) Soldiers and what the National Guard can truly bring to the fight. I am extremely proud of each of you and look forward to seeing you all again.”
Lt. Col. John Truax, commander of the 124th CPB and TFE IV, echoed Hawley’s praise.
“This has been a year full of firsts. Under extremely challenging and dynamic conditions, every Soldier in this task force stepped up to support one another, the mission, and our nation,” said Truax. “The CSM and I are incredibly proud of the men and women in this formation. We could not have asked for better talent or a better team. The strong professional relationships forged with the 780th MI Brigade, ARCYBER, and USCYBERCOM by previous Task Force Echo rotations remain critical elements of our success now and in the future.”
Since August 15, 2017, more than 600 Army National Guard Soldiers have been assigned to the task force, working alongside the 780th to conduct cyberspace operations in support of USCYBERCOM and the CNMF.
Hawley said the task force is a demonstration of the benefits of the partnership that has been built between the Army’s active and reserve components.