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NEWS | Sept. 17, 2021

Georgia Guard strengthens cyber capability at interagency, joint, multinational exercise

By Capt. Bryant Wine

Service members with the Georgia National Guard participated in exercise Cyber Dawg 21, a live-action cyber security exercise held Sept. 13-17, 2021, at the Georgia Cyber Center in Augusta, Georgia.

The Georgia Technology Center created and led Cyber Dawg 21 to increase, practice and refine response to cyber-attacks amongst state agencies. The exercise comprised of 60 participants from 20 total organizations from the state of Georgia, including the Georgia National Guard.

The first Cyber Dawg exercise occurred in 2019 and has continually sought to enhance a whole-of-state approach to cyber awareness, readiness and coordination.

“The Georgia National Guard continues to play a huge part in our plan for cyber defense in Georgia,” said Mr. David Allen, chief information security officer of the Georgia Technology Authority. “Any chance we can get together and train together pays big dividends.”

Soldiers and Airmen from Georgia’s Army and Air National Guards trained alongside civilian counterparts from various state agencies at Cyber Dawg 21.

Soldiers participating in Cyber Dawg 21 hail from the Forest Park-based 170th Cyber Protection Team, 781st Troop Command Detachment, 78th Troop Command, Georgia Army National Guard.

The Georgia Air National Guard sent Airmen from the Warner Robins-based 202nd Engineering Installation Squadron and Marietta-based 283rd Combat Communications Squadron, 116th Air Control Wing, as well as the Brunswick-based 224th Joint Communications Support Squadron, 165th Airlift Wing.

Soldiers from the countries of Georgia and Argentina also participated in the exercise. The Georgia National Guard maintains formal relationships with Georgia and Argentina under the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. The Georgia National Guard established its first partnership with Georgia in 1994, and then Argentina in 2016.

Cyber security is a relatively new and fast-growing field developing in response to the challenging, destructive threats of the digital age.
The U.S. Army created its cyber branch in 2014, making it the newest branch of America’s land-based force. The Georgia Army National Guard’s 170th CPT organized in 2015 and is one of the first three cyber protection teams formed in the National Guard.

The crucial need for cyber warfighters in the DoD has made Georgia Guardsmen into highly trained and experienced partners to other state agencies. Cyber Dawg 21 brings these actors together to train and learn from each other.

“The Georgia National Guard has performed very well [in the exercise],” said Allen. “The state employees that participate always have nothing but great things to say about how much they learn from the Georgia Guard team when they come and participate.”

The Georgia Technology Authority organized Cyber Dawg 21 participants into a blue cell, red cell and white cell. The blue cell simulated a fictional organization defending itself from cyber threats and responding to attacks. Red cell participants represented the exercise’s adversaries, seeking and exploiting vulnerabilities in the network environment. The white cell facilitated Cyber Dawg 21, monitoring, training and ensuring the exercise occurred without stoppages.

Georgia Guardsmen embedded in all three cells were able to share their knowledge with other state agencies while also gaining unique approaches to cyber security from their civilian counterparts.

“This exercise has been great,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Tammy Giles, a cyber operations noncommissioned officer assigned to the Forest Park-based 170th Cyber Protection Team, 781st Troop Command Detachment, 78th Troop Command, Georgia Army National Guard. “I’m extremely happy that Georgia does something like this.”