FORT GORDON, Ga. – The Soldiers of the 11th Cyber Battalion (Leviathans), accompanied by friends and Family, bid farewell to Lt. Col. Benjamin H. Klimkowski and welcomed back Lt. Col. Luis A. Etienne, Jr., in a change of command ceremony hosted by Col. Benjamin F. Sangster, the commander of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber), at the Cyber Fitness Center here, June 28.
The 11th Cyber Battalion (CYB) is the first and only expeditionary Cyber Electromagnetic Activity (CEMA) battalion of its kind in the United States Army. 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 activation of the 11th CYB, an MTOE (modified table of organization and equipment) organization, follows the recent deactivation of the 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion (CWB), a TDA (tables of distribution and allowances) organization.
Sangster, in his remarks, said his first interactions with Klimkowski and Etienne was while serving as the Information Dominance branch chief at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC). Klimkowski had called seeking career advice, specifically debating whether or not to compete for battalion command; and he had called Etienne about heading to the newly activated 915th CWB to serve as the battalion’s executive officer (XO).
“When he (Klimkowski) put his name in the hat for battalion command, the then 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion was just being stood up,” said Sangster in his remarks as the host. “Fast forward two years, under Ben’s watch, the 915th has become the 11th, added multiple ECTs (Expeditionary CEMA Teams), supported numerous exercises, deployed Soldiers in support of real-world operations, and even integrated “Spot” the robotic dog into an Operational Readiness Assessment.
Klimkowski, a native of Wantagh, New York, right outside of New York City on Long Island, comes from a very patriotic Navy family. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) in 2004 and was initially commissioned into the infantry. Klimkowski served in one of the first cyber assignments at Army Cyber Command and was part of the initial functional area transition to cyber when it became a branch in 2014 under the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program (VTIP).
In addition to thanking his mentors, peers, and Family, Klimkowski told the Soldiers on the 11th CYB that it was an “absolute honor” to serve with them as their commander and listed three things he was most proud of.
“First, your commitment to excellence has been nothing short of outstanding. You have always answered the call… It’s no surprise that external organizations are continually submitting requests for 11th Cyber Battalion Expeditionary CEMA Team support,” said Klimkowski.
As an example, Klimkowski talked about how the Soldiers came together over a four-day weekend to plan for a significant real-world contingency 18 months ago.
“I have seen other organizations drag their feet, whine about not having the weekend, blame echelons above reality, or adopt other counterproductive attitudes,” added Klimkowski. “But not you. You all collectively wanted to be a part of the action and make a difference. From the islands in the Pacific to Europe and the Middle East, this mindset permeated everything you did.”
He then highlighted another extraordinary aspect of the 11th CYB, “it’s culture of care.” Leaders going the extra distance to take care of their subordinates and each other.
“As I mentioned earlier, it starts with the command sergeant major, but cuts across every echelon down to the first line supervisors and battle buddies.”
Finally, Klimkowski talked about the Soldiers unwavering commitment to helping the Army leverage cyber and electronic warfare and the long-term success of the expeditionary CEMA brand.
“I have mentioned the following sentiment before, as a new organization, defining a new mission set – the burden of innovation can weigh heavy. It is difficult to ask an organization that is operating at full capacity to simultaneously do those things and be innovative about new approaches and ask that organization to capture those insights for posterity,” said Klimkowski. “Whether it was working with special forces groups or other multidomain partners, time and again, you went the distance to make the Amy more prepared to fight its next war.”
Lt. Col. Klimkowski’s next assignment will be an NSA (National Security Agency) fellowship.
Lt. Col. Etienne is a native of Killeen, Texas. He is a 2004 USMA graduate and also initially commissioned as an infantry officer. Etienne transitioned in to the cyber branch in 2015, and most recently served in the U.S. Army Cyber Protection Brigade as a team lead for a National – Cyber Protection Team, and dual-hatted as the deputy commander of Joint Task Force – 2, Cyber National Mission Force.
“Every chance that I get with the 11th, I want to make sure all the Soldiers understand this. What you do on a daily basis is extremely important,” emphasized Col. Sangster at the end of his remarks. “Ben (Klimkowski) used the word chaotic earlier; and it is chaotic for us. That is just the way we do it right now. Innovation isn’t easy. Innovation is dynamic, it’s kind of wild, but it is also be fun. So, make sure that everyday you take the chaos we have and just have fun with it because everything we’re doing is meaningful and is going to have a huge impact when we’re called upon. Thank you for everything that you’ve done – just like you’ve supported Ben Klimkowski and his Family for the last two years I ask that you do the same for Etienne.”
Currently, the 11th CYB has three companies, over three hundred assigned personnel, and four established 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.
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