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NEWS | Sept. 15, 2010

Rhode Island Air Guardsmen provide network security at Combined Endeavor

By Sgt. Michael Simmons, 110th Public Affairs Detachment

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Airmen from the 102nd Network Warfare Squadron of the Rhode Island Air National Guard are learning to protect computer operating systems from improper use, hacking and other suspicious activity as part of Combined Endeavor 2010.

Combined Endeavor, hosted here from Sept. 3-16, is the largest military communications exercise of its kind in the world, which enables participating nations to test the interoperability of their communications systems and networks in order to support their nation's respective security priorities during crisis.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III recently told the Washington Post that terrorist organizations have identified cyberspace as "a means to damage both our economy and our psyche -- and countless extremists have taken this to heart."

The 102nd NWS supports Combined Endeavor by ensuring no inappropriate or malicious activity on the network interrupts the test schedule. Each of the 40-partner nations participating in the exercise may have differing ideas of minimum network security criteria.

The exercise provides a common platform for participants to learn from each other, build collaborative network systems and to protect those networks from attack or breakdown.

One of the valuable lessons learned from this mission is the opportunity to work through cultural and technological differences to complete the objective, said Senior Master Sgt. David Fleury of the 102nd NWS.

The Rhode Island airmen have supported Combined Endeavor since 2003. Five airmen are located at Grafenwoehr, three are assisting the exercise from a forward site in Romania.

“Having a forward site in Romania is a good part of the exercise,” said Marine Maj. David Norton, site commander for Combined Endeavor-Romania. “It adds to the level of complexity and makes troubleshooting exponentially harder.”

“The exercise allows me to improve and refresh my skills,” said Staff Sgt. Miguel Barajas, also of the 102nd. He also said that he enjoys the camaraderie of the numerous participating nations within the facility.

Very few missions allow a technician to learn and encounter so much within a three week period, Combined Endeavor is a great opportunity, Fleury said.