MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, CA -- The Corps' ability to win on the battlefield remains strong;
however, its post-9/11 enemies in operational environments like in
Iraq and Afghanistan have been, by and large, a technologically
inferior force. And while the Corps may need to only refine its
maneuver warfare skills, there is a new battle space that is sure to
dominate the next major armed conflict: cyberspace.
U.S. has drawn down its military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan,
America's force in readiness is preparing for the next big fight.
Technical, tactical, and technological superiority is never given –
it is earned through tough, realistic training.
August 22, 2016 - Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force and sailors with 553 Cyber Protection Team, monitor network activity during I MEF Large Scale Exercise 2016 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. The overall purpose of the exercise was to practice the deployment of a fighting force of more than 50,000 military personnel to a partner nation and incorporate both live-fire and simulated combat scenarios against a near-peer enemy force. 553-CPT is a team of cyber defense specialists with Fleet Cyber Command. The team advised I MEF while setting up the command element's network. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Garrett White)
Marines and sailors with I Marine Expeditionary Force
conducted I MEF Large Scale Exercise 2016 (August 10 - 22)
across several locations in Southern California in
part to hone its cyber defense capabilities.
The overall purpose of the exercise was to practice
the deployment of a fighting force of more than 50,000
military personnel to a partner nation and incorporate both
live-fire and simulated combat scenarios against a near-peer
“What we are working on in the joint
force across the national-defense establishment is finding
our way into this new domain of warfare that we call the
cyber domain,” said Maj. Gen. David Coffman, deputy
commanding general, I MEF. “The ones and zeroes in the
computers can go around the world, up into space, et cetera,
this is a problem we are attacking in this exercise.”
Coffman added that one area the force focused on was the
defense of its forward computer networks. Because the
exercise included establishing a forward-operating base for
the command element, security doesn't stop at the area's
entry control point.
“The scenario gives us the
opportunity to exercise against a force with advanced cyber
capabilities,” said Capt. Curtis Miller, cyber network
operations planner, I MEF. “What that means to me is we have
to stand up a defensive posture to enable the operators to
fight through and accomplish the objective.”
explained that what makes an advanced cyber capability is
less the kind of attacks that can be leveraged against us
but how those attacks occur. Once they get into the network,
their ability to maintain a persistent presence makes it
difficult to detect and respond to their attacks.
I MEF began to return to conducting force-level training
exercises against near-peer adversaries, it has remained
proactive in identifying and improving its cyber
I MEF also reached out to other
military services to achieve its training objectives.
“Our mission is to assist the Marines in conducting
defensive cyber operations and identifying any gaps in
conducting defensive cyber operations,” said Chief Petty
Officer Marco Fernandez, cryptologic technician for
networks, 553 Cyber Protection Team, a team of cyber defense
specialists with Fleet Cyber Command, 10th Fleet. 553-CPT
attached to I MEF to act as advisors while setting up the
command element's networks.
Fernandez said attacks
can be expected from various adversaries and a multitude of
attack vectors an opponent can use including phishing scams
and specialized malicious software. He said the ultimate
goal of most adversaries is to footprint an organization and
figure out its capabilities.
With the assistance of
553-CPT, the Marines of I MEF were able to codify new and
improved techniques, tactics and procedures, keeping
classified and unclassified computer systems secure.
“To me, it comes down to planning,” Miller said. “We
have to develop a (defensive cyber operations) plan that
takes all things into consideration in how to prevent, how
to protect and how to respond to a cyberattack. Being able
to train our guys and have the tools and understand where we
can leverage recourses to win that type of fight and gain
that information advantage is what every commander should be
able to have in his tool kit.”
benefited the Marines of I MEF and helped strengthen the
U.S. military as a whole.
“I think it's a win-win for
the Corps as a service, as well as (U.S. Cyber Command)
because you have a multi-service team working jointly to
reach a goal,” Fernandez said. “So I think we are in a great
position to shape the future of defensive cyber operations.”
By U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Garrett White
Marine Corps News
The U.S. Marines
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