NEWS | July 20, 2021

Tennessee Guard joins national cybersecurity exercise

By Staff Sgt. Timothy Cordeiro, Tennessee National Guard Public Affairs Office

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Members of the Tennessee National Guard are participating in the nationwide cybersecurity exercise, Cyber Shield, July 10-24 at Joint Force Headquarters in Nashville.

The annual exercise is designed to increase response capabilities and preparedness by simulating cyberattacks on infrastructure elements in the United States.

Tennessee’s Defense Cyber Operations Element, 119th Cyber Operations Squadron, and Detachment 2, 175th Cyber Protection Team, are testing themselves as a team during the two-week exercise.

“Participating in a training event like this is a real benefit to all of us,” said Maj. Ryan Henry, deputy chief of the Defense Cyber Operations Element. “Over the course of these two weeks, we will be graded and we will get a real idea of where we stand so that we can prepare our strategic training plan going forward.”

The exercise is being administered by a team of cyber professionals out of Camp Williams, Utah. Most participants, including those from the Tennessee National Guard, are conducting this training virtually.

“We have a resilient team that can take on any challenge,” said Henry. “Virtually participating in Cyber Shield will have no impact on the training event and what we can gain from it.”

More than 750 Army and Air National Guard members from across the country are participating, as well as local, state and federal government agencies. This year, for the first time, members from 11 countries are taking part in the exercise as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. The SPP was created over 25 years ago and connects a state’s National Guard with the armed forces from a partner country in a mutually beneficial relationship.

The Williamson County Emergency Management Agency is also participating in Cyber Shield 2021, working alongside the Tennessee National Guard to test the interagency capabilities of both organizations.

“It’s always beneficial to work together with different agencies,” said Henry. “We can learn things from each other and strengthen our relationship, which will only help us be more effective in the event of a real-world scenario in which we are working together.”

Recently, a number of cyberattacks have made news. In May, the world’s largest meat processing company, JBS Foods, and the largest fuel pipeline in the United States were the targets of ransomware attacks.

Consistent training is vital for cyber professionals to gain the experience to combat these attacks.

“As we work through a training event like this one, we gain invaluable experience,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Richard Allen, Cyber Protection Defense Officer. “Cybersecurity is as important as it’s ever been. We need to be able to confidently identify, protect and defend against cyberattacks here in Tennessee, and we need to be ready in the event we are called upon to help with a large-scale attack against our country.”