223rd COS graduates first in-residence mission defense team

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Condit
  • 189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 223rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron held a graduation ceremony Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., for 20 cyber defenders assigned to mission defense teams across the Air Force to include active duty and reservists. The ceremony was attended by leadership from Air Combat Command and the Arkansas National Guard. The graduates were the first from the only in-residence initial qualification training course currently provided to MDT operators nationwide.

According to Capt. Scott Lang, the 223rd COS Chief of Programs and Policies, Air Force active duty, National Guard and Reserve units plan to push more than 300 students through the MDT course throughout fiscal year 2020, raising in-residence initial qualification trained operators from 4 to 58 percent Air Force-wide. Lang also explained further investments put into the squadron and other cyber units across the Air Force will grow pipeline student training to more than 500 annually in the 223rd COS and more than 1,000 initial qualification students annually across the Air Force.

“The mission defense teams are an Air Force construct designed to provide wing commanders, cyber-based mission assurance and defense across the assigned weapon system for that wing,” said Lt. Col. Eroica Waggoner, the 223rd COS deputy. “It’s a novel concept within the Air Force. It takes communications Airmen that have been historically focused on service-providing roles and placing them into a role where they need an operational mindset.”

The Air Force is currently the only Department of Defense component that trains mission defense teams. The graduation is one step in the total force initiative to provide training for weapons systems support. Currently, the training for cyber protection operators and mission defense teams is being provided at the 39th Intelligence Operations Squadron but not in an initial qualification training atmosphere. The students who attended this initial course had zero MDT training before arriving at the 189th Airlift Wing.

The MDT concept is not specific to DOD weapons systems. Within the state of Arkansas, there are many cyber elements that should be looked at and assessed. Every year, more and more incidents are occurring within the United States and National Guard cyber operators are being called in to analyze the systems and train others to better defend their cyber domains.

“We could build an MDT with our DSG’s using the same construct as the Air Force to respond to an incident that could happen domestically,” Waggoner said. “It’s the same team principle. We’re simply applying it to a domestic scenario instead of federal.”