Army giving cyber warriors a training range of their own

CECOM will open the Cyber Battle Ground to all units later this year to speed up cyber operations training.

The Army has been building up its cyber workforce, but once those soldiers are in the door they still have to be trained. In order to help speed up the process, the service’s Communications Electronic Command, or CECOM, is launching a new training range dedicated to cyber operations.

Army cyber warrior graphic

The Cyber Battle Ground is expected to be open to all units in late 2015, according to an Army release.

The range, whose creation was prompted by a request from the 7th Cyber Protection Brigade, or CPB, will provide soldiers with a realistic environment for testing skills learned and reinforced in a classroom setting. "The range is designed to reinforce learning and build confidence in what leadership acknowledges is an agile skill set that will need to be continuously honed in concert with the ever-increasingly complex challenges of cybersecurity," said Michael Martinez, training support division branch chief for CECOM’s field support directorate. "To date, we've had at least 100 7th CPB soldiers take advantage of it."

The cyber range is intended to reduce the time and costs of training cyber warriors, while providing repeatable processes, access to enterprise tools and some services not available elsewhere. “CECOM can also develop configurations to support multiple environments/configurations through the cyber range and has incorporated real world Cyber Actor/Cyber Threat characterization, dynamic threat actor/agent capability into training,” the release stated.

Several experts and military officials have lauded the importance and need for additional training and greater cyber hygiene as a means of protecting against threats and mounting a formidable defense (which also translates into the civilian government and commercial realm as well). “So when you look at cyber, where are the weakest links in the chain across our entire cyber domain?,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, said during a recent speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And that’s a bit challenging for us to be able to determine with absolute certainty that we know where every one of those weak links are. Recognizing that the biggest weak links are the many operators that we have in that cyber domain that don’t exercise good cyber hygiene.”

According to the Defense Department’s most recent cyber strategy, released in April, the entire Cyber Mission Force eventually will comprise cyber operators organized into 133 teams with a variety of mission sets and goals, such as Cyber Protection Forces to augment traditional defensive measures and defend priority DOD networks and systems, National Mission Forces to defend the United States and its interests against cyberattacks of significant consequence, and Combat Mission Forces to support combatant commands by generating integrated cyberspace effects in support of operational plans and contingency operations to name a few. 

CECOM, headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., says its aim is to “develop, provide, integrate and sustain the logistics and readiness of C4ISR systems and mission command capabilities for joint, interagency and multi-national forces worldwide.”

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