FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Maryland – The transition of authority between 169 Cyber Protection Team (CPT) and Task Force Echo (TFE), U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG), at the McGill Training Center August 15 was more than just a ceremony – it was a historic and impactful event for the Army cyber enterprise and the Nation.
While Active Duty, U.S. Army Reserve and ARNG units frequently train, deploy, and serve side-by-side — the event marked the first ARNG task force mobilization of this size to support U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) operations full time, and is a testament to the Army’s commitment to the Total Force in defense of networks against the Nation’s adversaries.
Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER), hosted the event, which included honored guests Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, as well as numerous State Adjutants General, other distinguished guests, Soldiers, and their Family members.
In his remarks, Nakasone talked about an Army that has been at war for 16 years, the longest period in our Nation’s history, and how the Army recognizes the future is fraught with many challenges, but also with many opportunities.
“Our Total Force Army — our Army National Guard, our Army Reserve, all of these Soldiers, including the active component, will play a significant role in the future of securing cyberspace defense for our Nation,” said Nakasone. “169 Cyber Protection Team has set the stage for the future. They have literally brokered for our Nation a future cyberspace operations capability.”
169 CPT has been operating under the 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade (Cyber), an active component organization, since 2015. Presently, 169 CPT and its 21 ARNG Soldiers hail from 13 States. At the unit’s largest formation, more than 60 Soldiers were assigned to 169 CPT, representing 24 States and two U.S. territories.
According to Lt. Col. Martine Whitaker, chief of 169 CPT, the team is the first ARNG cyber team to reach Initial Operating Capability (IOC), and did so in stride with their active duty counterparts. More importantly, the team leaves Fort Meade with the cyberspace operational knowledge, skills, and abilities, which will benefit their home states, the Army, and ultimately, the Nation.
“Today, we proudly recognize the National Guard’s absolute, indisputable relevance within the Total Army,” said Whitaker. “In the case of 169 CPT — the first ARNG cyber team to serve alongside our active-duty comrades — 169 will always be the first, the original, the mold from which all other teams follow.”
TFE replaces 169 CPT and is comprised of more than 140 ARNG cyber Soldiers representing seven states — California, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia. TFE will also operate under the 780th MI Brigade to train and conduct cyberspace operations in support of USCYBERCOM and the Cyber Mission Force.
“The performance of 169 CPT and assumption of mission by Task Force Echo demonstrates the Total Force employed in the Army and USCYBERCOM,” said Col. Adam Volant, the TFE commander. “Together, we integrate with ARCYBER and USCYBERCOM to perform missions that defend the Nation and represent the quality force effectively aimed against our adversaries.”
According to Volant, both TFE and 169 CPT Soldiers have strong academic, interagency and corporate relationships.
“The truly unique part of these Soldiers is that the blend of their experience, military training and civilian credentialing – cybersecurity certifications and clearance — make them well qualified to immediately perform missions of importance at the State and Federal level,” said Volant.
Of note, the ARNG recently established a mission-ready cyber unit — the 91st Cyber Brigade, which is comprised of five cyber battalions. 169 CPT moves to a new chapter under the Maryland ARNG and will assist the 91st Cyber Brigade with the readiness of future teams.
“Today is truly a great day,” said Kadavy. “Not just for the Total Army and the Department of Defense, but for our entire country, as Task Force Echo assumes the mission from the 169th Cyber Protection Team…they represent the precursor to the reserve mission-ready cyber units of today and the future.”
As an integral part of the Army cyber team — TFE and 169 CPT live up to the National Guard motto: “Always Ready, Always There!”