FORT GORDON, Ga. – The historic activation ceremony of the 11th Cyber Battalion (Leviathans) and the uncasing of the organization’s unique colors took place in a ceremony steeped in Army tradition and hosted by Col. Benjamin Sangster, commander of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber), at the Gordon Catering and Conference center, December 15.
The 11th Cyber Battalion (CYB) is the Army’s premiere expeditionary Cyber Electromagnetic Activity (CEMA) battalion. Officially activated on October 16, 2022, the 11th CYB can deliver a range of non-lethal, non-kinetic effects—including offensive cyberspace operation (OCO) and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities.
“The most important thing to recognize about the transition is what is not changing; while parts of our structure are now more stable and doctrinally grounded, 11th CYB will remain adaptive, innovative, and aggressive about supporting the needs of the Warfighter,” said Lt. Col. Benjamin Klimkowski, battalion commander for the 11th CYB.
Currently the 11th CYB has three companies, over three hundred assigned personnel, and four established Expeditionary CEMA Teams (ECTs) with a fifth being created by the end of September 30, 2023. By September 2027, the 11th CYB is projected to have a total 12 ECTs, each capable of providing OCO, EW, and information advantage functions and capabilities.
“The ECT provides a scalable unit of action capable of supporting past and emerging requirements for Army centric missions—whether those requirements are forward offensive CEMA operations or remote cyber operations in support of Warfighter needs,” added Klimkowski.
The activation of the 11th CYB, an MTOE (modified table of organization and equipment) organization1, follows the deactivation of the 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion (CWB), a TDA (tables of distribution and allowances) organization2. The 915th CWB was activated following the Cyber Support to Corps and Below (CSC-B) pilot program began in 2014 as an effort by General Raymond Odierno, the 38th Army Chief of Staff, to integrate cyberspace operations into the maneuver battleground at the tactical level.
The 11th Cyber Battalion is the first and only battalion of its kind in the United States Army.
“The transition reflects Army Cyber’s recognition of the Expeditionary CEMA Team as a permanent part of Army forces and an essential part of future land operations—the need for CEMA Soldiers is increasing,” said Klimkowski.
The legacy and accomplishments earned by the Soldiers of the CSC-B pilot program and the 915th CWB have laid the foundation for the future of the 11th CYB and expeditionary Cyber Operations within U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER).
Command Sgt. Maj Marlene Harshman, former member of the CSC-B pilot program and current 11th CYB senior enlisted leader, witnessed the full evolution of the battalion.
“We have come a long way from our initial CSC-B engagements and Combat Training Center rotations. We educated Army leaders on what Cyber can bring to the fight, but we also learned what the Army needs. We did not have all of the answers and every engagement has been crucial to our Battalion’s growth and development. We can thank our leaders and Soldiers for their contributions for the better part of a decade that have helped shape what the 11th Cyber Battalion has become,” Command Sgt. Maj. Marlene Harshman, senior enlisted leader for the 11th Cyber Battalion.
For many of the Soldiers taking part in the 11th CYB activation ceremony, the event it is a career milestone, and “will bring a sense of fulfillment and pride for everyone who was a part of the formation of the unit,” said Maj. Richard L. Byrne, S3 (operations), 11th CYB.
“The unit has come a long way from when I first arrived to the 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion in June of 2019. We were less than 40 Soldiers and ECT-01 was less than 15 Soldiers,” said Byrne. “Now the battalion has more than 300 Soldiers and growing. The growth has been remarkable. What is even more exciting to witness is the maturity of the ECTs, the evolution of the battalion’s training program, and the desire from the Army to get the ECTs operational.”
For some Soldiers, this has been their first and only Army experience; however, it was one they volunteered for, understanding the challenges, as well as the opportunities, that came with the process.
Capt. Courtney Sullivan, commander of Bravo Company, 11th CYB, arrived to the unit as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, after completing the Cyber Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) in May of 2019, and signed into the 915th Cyber Warfare Support Battalion (CWSB) prior to its activation ceremony that same month.
“This unit means so much to me, it has been my first and only unit I have been a part of since commissioning. I feel lucky to have worked under and alongside some of the best leaders in ARCYBER and the Army: Maj. Etienne; Lt. Col. Raser; Lt. Col. Klimkowski; Command Sgt. Maj. Harshman; Maj. Byrne, all the previous company commanders…,” said Sullivan. “It’s incredible to look back at where we started from in a small office space working off laptops on fold out tables to establish basic army processes, to now seeing us fill motor pools with vehicles and arms rooms with weapons, while inching closer and closer to OCO. I look at all the work-roles, jobs, and opportunities this unit and its leadership has afforded me in four years; from working almost every staff section, becoming a mission commander, an ECT planner, deploying to Afghanistan, and now Company Command, I don’t know how any brand-new officer could ask for any more experience, training, and outstanding mentorship.”
For other Soldiers, it’s another assignment, but it’s a memorable one that will have career-long impact.
“The 915th CWB and now the 11th CYB has meant a lot to me over the past three years I have spent in the organization,” added Staff Sgt. Breyon Samuel, Alpha Company, 11th CYB. “The friends that I have made and the knowledge that I have gained will follow me through the rest of my career. I have grown to personally care about the mission of the 11th and the impact we are trying to have on the Army. We have a chance to enable operations that can have strategic impacts and keep our elite warfighters safe.”
There is still growth in the battalion’s future, opportunities to be a part of establishing Army doctrine, and a chance to travel the world.
“To the prospective Soldiers who may be interesting in joining the 11th CYB: do you want to be on the cutting edge of Expeditionary CEMA, working with and supporting the best Soldiers the Army has to offer? Do you want to get the chance to travel the world and conduct realistic training and real-world missions? Do you want to gain a perspective that your peers in traditional cyber units will never get the chance to see; using cyber at the tactical edge to enable our warfighters? If so, then 11th Cyber Battalion may be for you,” said Samuel.
“While your brothers and sisters on the combat mission teams, the national mission teams are conducting operations from sanctuary, some of you will be getting mud and dust on your boots,” said Sangster. “I’m confident of that, over the next six months, not in six months, some of you will be going forward and you will be executing cyberspace operations, advanced electronic warfare – that I can guarantee…I am envious”
1. The MTOE (modified table of organization and equipment) is an authorization document for personnel and equipment, establishing requirements given a specific doctrinal mission.
2. TDA (tables of distribution and allowances) organization. TDA units are organized to perform specific missions for which there are no appropriate TOEs and are discontinued as soon as their assigned missions have been accomplished.