August 14, 2008

Manassas-based Virginia Guard Soldiers mobilize for federal duty in Southwest Asia

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

MANASSAS, Va. — Approximately 20 Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Manassas-based Data Processing Unit mobilized for federal active duty Aug. 11 at Fort Belvoir. The Soldiers will deploy overseas as a Regional Computer Emergency Response Team providing network security support in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

After a brief period of time at Fort Belvoir, the Soldiers will spend a week at Fort Benning, Ga., before they travel overseas to start their mission. The Soldiers have been training primarily in Virginia since May to prepare for the mission.

The mission of the team will be to help prevent malicious attacks on the computer networks in the Southwest Asia area of operations, explained Maj. Gray Kendall, operations officer for the team. These type of attacks include unauthorized data access attempts or any other activities that would compromise security or degrade network operations for units and activities using the network.

Most of the Soldiers mobilizing are from the Northern Virginia area and bring significant information technology experience from their civilian careers to the mission, Kendall said.

Almost all of the deploying Soldiers have at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, and several have master’s degrees, said Lt. Col. Stephen Warnock, commander of the team.

“National Guard Soldiers bring a wealth of knowledge gained through their civilian employment,” he said. Soldiers on the team have anywhere from four to 30 years of experience working with computers.

One thing that helps the CERT do their job is smart computing on the part of everyday users.

“We try to emphasize smart computing, and if Soldiers do their job, that is 90 percent of what we have to do,” Warnock said.

From there, the security threats can come from a number of places. It could be nation states attempting to gain unauthorized access to information on the network, as well as organized crime or individual criminal activity. In addition to keeping the network secure, the Soldiers will also work to make sure the network is operating at full capacity.

In addition to the network security operations, the senior leaders of the team will also be working to advise commanders and senior staff about non-lethal engagement techniques where the U.S. Army can use information to influence the local population, Warnock said.

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