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NEWS | July 22, 2021

Pennsylvania Guard participates in cyber defense exercise

By Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah – Eight cyber experts from the Pennsylvania National Guard are participating in Cyber Shield, the Department of Defense's largest unclassified cyber defense exercise, at Camp Williams July 10-23.

The Pennsylvania Army National Guard's cyber team has participated in Cyber Shield every year since it began in 2013.

"This year, the team chose to participate in a nontraditional way by taking leadership roles to build the exercise cyber range, lead network owners, and augment other efforts such as red team, fusion, and help desk operations," said Maj. Christine Pierce, cyber team chief for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's Defensive Cyber Operations Element. "Our goal was to leverage our team's deep exercise history and technical expertise to enhance Cyber Shield for everyone."

Cyber Shield 21 develops, trains and exercises cyber forces in computer network internal defensive measures and cyber incident response. About 800 top cyber defense professionals, from National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to government and industry partners, join in a hybrid in-person and online environment.

The Pennsylvania Army National Guard's cyber warriors are part of the exercise's leadership and core staff.

"Cyber incidents are an ongoing and substantial threat in 2021. America's power plants, food supply, water supply, health care, law enforcement and defense sectors have all come under attack," said Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during a media roundtable June 29. "These cyber threats extend our adversaries' reach across borders and time zones, and it could have devastating consequences."

There have been attacks or attempted attacks in every U.S. state. Though the National Guard doesn't need to respond to every episode, cyber defense experts stress the importance of planning and training together.

"Cyber Shield is special because it integrates all levels of government and utilities, high-tech industry, law enforcement and other partners," said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, a master cyberspace officer and the adjutant general of Illinois. "It has been described as kind of like a pickup basketball game where the teams choose their best players, both in the military and outside the military, and bring them along." 

The Pennsylvania Guard cyber branch works with the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security, colleges and universities and local, state and federal agencies to help protect their networks from ransomware, spyware, phishing and other malicious attacks.