by Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
1/8/2016 - SAN ANTONIO -- National
Guard leaders attended a four-day cyber security familiarization course
Dec. 7-10 in San Antonio. The class was the first of its kind for the
Air National Guard that previously had no cyber security training for
its senior leaders or commanders not assigned to cyber career fields.
The course outlines various cyber threats and educates leaders on the
resources available to neutralize those threats, relying on seasoned
professionals from the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security
at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
For Brig. Gen. David McMinn, Texas Air National Guard director of strategic planning, this course came at just the right time.
"Everybody agrees that the next big Pearl Harbor for us will be in the
cyber realm," McMinn said. "We need to be adept in this realm. This
course is helping senior leaders assess capabilities of not only our
adversaries but also those of our own cyber forces."
The National Guard Bureau also announced the placement of multiple cyber
protection teams across the nation during the same week senior leaders
were attending the course - aligning the teams with FEMA management
regions - yet another indicator that the Department of Defense aims to
increase cyber preparedness. Texas was one of the four states assigned
with Air National Guard cyber teams.
During the training, senior leaders spent time at the 273rd Information
Operations Squadron, an Air National Guard unit with a reputation for
being cyber savvy. Walking into an environment of experts in a field
where many are still beginners could feel intimidating, but Maj. Kristy
Leasman, commander of the 273rd IOS, aims to dispel those feelings.
"I want to take the mystery out of cyber for them," Leasman said. "The
course builds a significant foundation, and the big lesson at the end of
the week is that cyber is not special - it's just operations. Senior
leaders should approach cyber operations the same way they approach any
other operational task. This course just helps with the language
According to McMinn, deciphering that language is crucial.
"We started this course in Texas because we identified a huge need for
our National Guard leaders - both Army and Air - to learn what's going
on in the cyber realm. To be able get this training in San Antonio, a
center for cyber excellence, and to run portions of the course right
here at the 24th and 25th Air Force, makes us the ideal location to be
trained up on these amazing capabilities," McMinn said.
Because the dangers of the cyber domain are different than those of the
physical domain, McMinn believes the action must fit the danger.
"Any other threat you see coming - the warning signs. You can see, 'hey,
they just launched a missile,' but cyber attacks have no warning signs
except for readiness, aptitude and the skills of those in the intel and
cyber fields that see those things coming and protect us," he said.
McMinn engaged in a conversation with some of his peers about how this
class has helped them better understand the old adage of an ounce of
prevention being weightier than a pound of cure.
"I had an idea about how big the problem was but after attending this
course and learning what the full-scale threat is, I'm very much
alarmed," McMinn said. "But this training has taught me how to protect
my family and myself, how to protect an organization, and what our
forces are doing to prevent those cyber threats."
But concern wasn't the only thing on the Texas leader's mind. Visiting with the cyber operatives bolstered his confidence.
"Not only am I more alarmed, but I also feel more secure in knowing what
our amazing people our doing to protect us," McMinn said. "We can't
always see what's going on behind the curtain, but there is a lot going
on behind that curtain."