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NEWS | June 27, 2024

North Carolina Guard, Moldova Join Forces for Cyber Shield 2024

By Staff Sgt. Hannah Tarkelly, 449th Combat Aviation Brigade

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Moldovan officers returned to America for a second consecutive year to join North Carolina National Guardsmen during the annual Cyber Shield training event at Virginia National Guard’s State Military Reservation May 31 to June 15.

Moldova and North Carolina have been partners for 28 years. Moldova is among the seven countries from the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program that have joined this year’s longest-running and largest DOD cyber exercise.

“It’s one of our longest-standing international partner relationships,” said North Carolina Army National Guardsman Lt. Col. Brian Dodd, Cyber Shield’s defense cyber team chief. “We have two members from Moldova who are training with us who are part of our team. … They’re on a keyboard working alongside us through any kind of cyber issues, incidents and training.”

North Carolina Guardsmen welcomed Moldova Capt. Ion Lascu, a senior officer of the Defense and Cyber Security Section, and 1st Lt. Vasile Petriciuc, a cybersecurity engineer for the Moldova Communication and Cyber Security Battalion. Both officers attended last year’s Cyber Shield event.

“We decided to come back here because we have the opportunity to learn … and to develop skills in cybersecurity,” Lascu said.

North Carolina National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Todd Webster, a cybersecurity team leader who oversaw Cyber Shield operations, has worked with the Republic of Moldova through the SPP for years. In 2018, he traveled to the Republic of Moldova to assist with their cyber operations and training. When he arrived, Webster discovered that when it came to the cyber world, it was a new territory of trust between the two nations.

“They were very protective of their information and how their systems operated,” Webster said. “They wouldn’t let us go hands on the keyboard.”

Through the SPP, the partnership between North Carolina and Moldova continued to strengthen.

“Since then, about two years ago is really when they started making the shift,” Webster said. “They became much more welcoming and open to allowing us to see their systems and to actually assess their systems.”

At this year’s Cyber Shield event, the Moldovan officers shared sleeping quarters and a keyboard with North Carolina Guard members.

“They’re pretty much sitting side by side with us and fighting off cyber attacks,” Webster said. “They’re going to be right on our systems, right on our tools, and hunting the adversaries with us.”

“We have a good relationship with our partners from North Carolina,” Lascu said. “Our colleagues supported us in a lot of activities ... in developing our incident center, response center, and skills to create our own defense capacity.”

“They can trust us and we can trust them,” Webster said. “They’re not here trying to gather intel on us and vice versa. … We’re here to work for the same cause.”

Webster said language barriers were not a problem. 

“Technology is technology,” Webster said. “It doesn’t matter what language you speak or what country you use it in. It’s all the same thing.”

Cyber Shield wasn’t just about developing expertise on the computer but about building positive relations and sharing small moments not found in a coded program.

“We not only did our work … but we were here together as friends,” Petriciuc said.

“We will continue this partnership because of our experience exchange, our common goals, and at the end we will have a good result,” Petriciuc said. “We make a good team.”

 

 

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