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Airmen, Guardians test, improve Guam cybersecurity

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rachelle Morris
  • Air Force Reserve Innovative Readiness Training (IRT)

More than two dozen Airmen and Guardians executed a cybersecurity Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission June 4 to 14 in response to the governor declaring Guam’s cybersecurity as a critical area in need of appropriate measures to defend critical infrastructure from malicious cyber activity.

The mission came at no-cost to the community and saved them approximately $400,000.

Hosted by Government of Guam’s Office of Technology (OTECH), the servicemembers traveled to 12 sites on the island, performing asset mapping and endpoint management across 50 organizations. Over ten days, and based on the mission outcomes, they provided Guam’s government with 42 new standard operating procedures, updates to 24 policies and delivered six new draft policies, ensuring their cybersecurity infrastructure is stronger than ever.

“We are a small team, so at first we were overwhelmed because of the amount of people IRT were bringing was more than the amount of our organization as a whole,” said Gerry Calvo, OTECH systems programmer. “We are also not affiliated with the military, so we didn’t know what to expect.”

Their fear of the unknown quickly wore off.

“We are very, very happy and satisfied,” Calvo said. “Everyone was so down to Earth. They helped us work through issues, build a baseline, and showed us tools available to us for no-cost. We are already excited for their trip next year, so we can build on what they have already established.”

He said he is also thankful to the IRT for making their jobs easier and more secure. Planning for the same IRT mission next year has already begun, as it takes nearly a year to prepare.

“It takes a village of people to plan for an event like this,” said Senior Master Sgt. Cassie Beauchene, IRT cybersecurity program manager. “The community partner must be open and willing to recognize and ask for help in areas that may be uncomfortable to admit. The challenge of bolstering a community's cyber defense while training military personnel lies in striking a delicate balance: securing the expertise of seasoned professionals to provide the critical training, yet simultaneously ensuring that even those with less experience, have the opportunity to train in unfamiliar terrain.”

This experience is unparalleled by any other readiness opportunity the military currently offers, she added.

Airmen and Guardians are interviewed and hand-selected. This mission included members from nine units across the globe.

“A year and a half ago, I requested to move into the cyber realm, and I fell in love with the cyber-domain,” said Senior Airman Paul Martin, 14th Test Squadron, Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. “When this mission came up, I was the first to volunteer. I wanted to have a real-world experience, gain skills, and help other organizations with their security posture. This experience was amazing.”

For them, it is an opportunity to gain exposure beyond their usual military environments, acquiring invaluable insights into unfamiliar cyber terrains, which is crucial for preparing effective support strategies in the event of a crisis.

“I like getting to be hands-on and work directly with civilians because I don’t get to do that often,” said Specialist 4 Kaylah Huerta, 68th Cyber Squadron, Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. “This was a good opportunity to see what the real-world is like and how much work needs to be done.”

Cybersecurity isn’t the only service Air Force Reserve Command’s IRT team provides. They also perform medical, civil engineering and aerial spray services for U.S. communities in need.

All IRT missions are dual hatted as a community service and an opportunity for servicemembers to receive real-world training they may not receive at their home units.

For more information on IRT or how to apply for a mission, visit irt.defense.gov.