RAMLA, Israel - Members of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard, attended the National Guard Bureau-Home Front Command annual planning conference in Israel July 22-28.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brendan Simison, Plans and Engineering Division chief, and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Ulich, 102nd Communications Flight senior enlisted leader, met with HFC to continue developing their bilateral cyber partnership.
HFC is Israel’s domestic response force, which augments local authorities to protect civilian populations during emergencies. The unit exists to save lives in search-and-rescue missions worldwide, according to the Israel Defense Forces website. The MANG has been working with HFC since 2017.
The NGB and HFC partnership serves four functions, known as lines of activities (LOAs), in an emergency: civil support; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear; urban search and rescue; and cyber. The MANG leads NGB cyber efforts.
As part of the MANG, the 253rd Cyberspace Engineering Installation Group’s stateside role is to provide all kinds of cyber support, from network computers to radios and satellite phones. In this partnership with Israel’s HFC, they provide cyber support to Israel’s Civil Support Team.
“Cyber is the glue that enables all command and control functions of the various LOAs,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Joseph Morrissey, assistant adjutant general for Air, Massachusetts Air National Guard. “Given the HFC mission to communicate with civil authorities during emergencies, it is a natural fit for the MANG to partner with the HFC in this arena.”
Simison and Ulich worked with their Israeli counterparts to share their experiences, knowledge and best practices to establish and maintain communications during major disasters. They discussed HFC command and control capabilities with HFC cyber representatives Lt. Col. Itay Zamir and civilian Levi Itach.
Israel’s HFC is well known for its search and rescue mission, providing critical rapid response in emergencies to protect civilians, restore order and save lives.
“My impression when we were there is that the Home Front Command and their response team is an elite team in the world and have deployed to many, many events,” said Ulich.
HFC members recounted their experiences responding to several incidents, including the 2021 beachfront apartment building collapse in Miami and the earthquake in Turkey in February.
Ulrich said the conference was a vital opportunity for the Guard and HFC to learn from each other.
“They identified they have some handheld radio shortfalls that we could probably help out teaching the training we’ve received for our Joint Incident Site Communications Capability package here, bridging the different radios and networks together,” he said.
Long-term objectives of the partnership include planning joint training for the next two years. The MANG will apply what they learned at the conference to the upcoming Cyber Yankee 24 exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod and other interactive training.
“Those future training opportunities will help should there be an incident where we’re going to respond together,” said Simison.
The MANG will also supplement in-person events with virtual meetings to keep the communication going.
The 102IW was joined at the conference by participants from the U.S. Central Command, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the NGB and Army National Guard units from Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and New York.
HFC participants included its command and control, communications, computers and intelligence early warning teams; its CBRN, medical and physical preparedness teams; and its Agamim Branch.
Israeli Brig. Gen. Liron Donnell, HFC chief of staff, also met with participants to speak about strategic and multidomain training opportunities, long-term objectives and her working guidance, according to Lt. Col. William Powers, NGB-HFC participant.
“I can’t say enough about how hospitable they were to us,” said Ulich. “They were very cooperative, wanting to show us their capabilities and hear from us as well. I look forward to seeing what unfolds.”