BUTLERVILLE, Ind. – Soldiers from the 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion, headquartered at Fort Gordon, Georgia, conducted a Field Training Exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, October 1 through 12, to provide a dedicated training environment for the Army’s first Expeditionary CEMA Team, ECT-01, and refine cyber gunnery tables for future certification exercises.
According to U.S. Army Cyber Command, the 915th CWB is the first scalable organic expeditionary capability to meet the Army’s current and projected tactical Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) requirements. The battalion, through its Expeditionary CEMA Teams (ECTs) provides a scalable capability to deploy cyberspace operators to conduct operations to deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy and manipulate cyberspace and electromagnetic effects for Army maneuver commanders.
Lt. Col. Matthew Davis, commander, 915th CWB, said the purpose of the FTX was two-fold.
“Priority one is the ECT’s training proficiency and having a scenario constructed around them as a training audience.” said Davis. “The second purpose is to develop a training plan for how we are going to train ECTs as we build them. This is our first ECT and there are 11 more to come – so how are we going to train them. We have a draft, a beta, and this is a pilot run of the beta to figure out have we established the right task, condition, and standards, training objectives, and is this the right training plan.”
According to Jim Greig, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber), S3 Plans, “Of all the training areas available in the Department of Defense, MUTC is the most realistic, complete, robust and appropriate facility.”
MUTC is a 1,000-acre urban training facility near Butlerville, Indiana, with over 200 buildings, to include a multi-story hospital, fresh-water and waste-water treatment facilities, a coal-fired steam plant, an embassy, high school, and even a prison – and “everything here is linked and in play,” said Greig.
“At the National Training Center, the RTU (rotational training unit) is the training priority. Here, we are the training audience,” added Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob Hogue, the battalion’s operations technical advisor. “The ECT is running through their processes and refining their TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures). It’s also giving the battalion an opportunity to really figure out what we need to have for (cyber) gunnery tables. It gives us the opportunity to refine our training program.”
Maj. Richard Byrne, a cyberspace operations officer and team leader for ECT-01, said the MUTC FTX provided his Soldiers an opportunity to train on both technical and tactical tasks for the team and gave the ECT-01 plans section the ability to exercise command and control of staffing processes and coordinating effects.
The ECT-01 plans section discussed the staffing process and the benefits of MUTC not only for the 915 CWB, but for the Army.
“We tailor our CONOPS (concept of operations) to the (maneuver) commander’s intent, we take his intent for that mission and derive an effect from that,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Vickery, a fire support specialist (13F) in the ECT-01 plans section.
“Intel drives the fight,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Moss, a fire support specialist (13F) in the ECT-01 plans section. “So, we task a team to look for something in a specific area, and from that gathered information it will go through a process, a kind of ‘what is there process,’ and then based on what is there, the commander will make another decision based on it.”
“This is the first time I have seen an exercise like this in cyber where we are able to go out and link a bunch of pieces together,” added 1st Lt. Courtney Sullivan, a cyberspace operations officer (17A) in the ECT-01 plans section. “Where we’re able to come and have actual OPORDs (operations orders) that are directed towards a cyber mission and tasks our ECTs to test their capabilities and equipment, test their ability to operate that equipment, and really gain that confidence in themselves and how they function with each other and their equipment.”
“We’re building SOPs (standard operating procedures) and identifying how we execute things efficiently because that hasn’t been done before,” said Vickery. “That’s one big takeaway. Another thing MUTC provides is a realistic urban environment where you can actually see effects. When you go to NTC or JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center), most of the time effects are white-carded, these guys are actually getting to see the results.”
Byrne summarized the capabilities ECTs will provide for maneuver commanders now and into the future at the Corps echelon and below.
“Our job is to support the Corps tactical fight,” said Byrne. “We’re here to employ cyber and electromagnetic activities for that commander, integrate with his staff, and provide him with a tactical edge over his adversaries.”
With 11 more ECTs being formed to support the U.S. Army’s multi-domain operations, Command Sgt. Maj. Marlene Harshman, the battalion’s senior enlisted leader, said the lessons learned from FTX have been “priceless.”
“The lessons learned from the FTX will build on our current and future capacity. We have to constantly focus on the future and adapt to make expeditionary cyber better, with every operation and every lesson learned,” said Harshman. “MUTC provided that dynamic environment for us to learn and grow as a team. That was critical in this first-ever event where the entire ECT was exercised. The lessons learned have been priceless.”