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    Marine Reservists based in New York Win Service-Level Cyber Games for 2nd Year in a Row

    U.S. Marines Compete in Marine Corps "Capture the Flag" Cyber Games 2021

    Photo By Lance Cpl. Hailey Music | U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Nathaneal Register, Marine Corps Cyberspace Warfare...... read more read more



    Story by Lance Cpl. Ashley Corbo 

    Marine Forces Reserve

    FORT MEADE, Md. – For the second year in a row, Reserve Marines bringing their civilian and military cyber skill sets to the keyboard triumphed handsomely against other teams in the annual Marine Corps Cyber Games. 6th Communication Battalion (6th Comm Bn), headquartered out of Brooklyn, N.Y., and attached to Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, beat out teams from across the Corps in the third iteration of the Deputy Commandant for Information-hosted games executed virtually and globally from Nov 1-5, 2021. During these service-level cyber games, both active duty and reserve Marines used critical thinking and decision making skills to compete in a game of capture the flag focused on offensive cyber operations.

    “This capture the flag style exercise is a 48 hour event,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Foust, company first sergeant, Defensive Cyber Operations-Internal Defensive Measures, Company Alpha. “There is a range environment where there are pre-configured machines and hints to capture the flags that are on the machines. They range from low level flags that are fairly simple to answer, to things that are extremely complex and very advanced, that consist of a lot of branch logic to get to the answer.”

    The Marine Corps uses the Cyber Games as a test of talent to gauge where Marines stand based on training they have received both in the Marine Corps and in the civilian workforce.

    “What we're doing in the cyber capture the flag exercise is similar to what you would do at a hacker conference,” said Foust. “What you typically bring back from these events are new skills, new connections, new ideas and lessons learned from others that have either tried to innovate and didn't make it or that did and were successful.”

    Going from one battlefield to the next, Staff Sgt. Sean Sarich went from being an infantry Marine to getting the call via LinkedIn to join the Corps’ ranks as a cyber-warrior. As a reservist and a defense contractor in the cyber realm, he had the interest and skills the Marine Corps were looking for to beef up its offensive and defensive capabilities.

    “The call went out to the reserves as a whole to find folks who were already in industry to basically staff up the reserve companies that (the Marine Corps) was building up last year,” said the 6th Comm Bn defensive cyber operator. “I’m here today because that's what I do in my civilian job. I'm a cyber-security manager in the DIB (defense industrial base).”

    Jokingly, he described the team as a ragtag group of reservists, but that’s where their strength comes from he said.

    “A lot of us come from all over the United States and we only see each other a certain amount of time but because we have a technical seat at the table with a very diverse ecosystem, we can really bring a lot of that expertise to bear together.”

    The Marine Corps Reserve has unique opportunities to recruit new talent and actively bring back Marines recently separated from service who want to continue service in this field. Sometimes those Marines don’t have formal military training, but come with skill sets on par – or in this winning team’s example – above, making them a formidable force to support U.S. Military cyber operations.

    “A lot of the reservists that we have in the Defensive Cyberspace Operations - Internal Defensive Measures (DCO-IDM) companies for 6th Communication Battalion and even in the Individual Mobilization Augmentee Detachment at Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command are not qualified Marines in the 1700 cyberspace operations occupation field,” said Master Sgt. Mike McAllister, cyberspace operations chief, 6th Communications Battalion. “These Marines are from other military occupational specialties and they just happen to work in civilian jobs that align with the needs of the company, so they are brought in.”

    The Cyber Games encourage Marines to learn new tactics and techniques for implementation in their everyday lives as well as in the Marine Corps.

    “We have the desire to be competitive and prove that even though we are Reserve Marines, we still have a huge talent pool stemming from our work in the private sector,” said Foust. “This allows the Reserve Component to augment the Active Duty forces, as we have skill sets that are hard to teach without years of hands-on experience and are definitely hard to come by.”

    Reserve participation in the annual Marine Corps Cyber Games is just one example of how Marine Forces Reserve is continually training and preparing to fight battles in an ever changing environment, on land, air, and sea and now in cyberspace.

    “We don't go into a competition expecting a victory, but we look at Cyber Games or any other competition as a learning experience; how can we leave this better than we came in,” said Foust. “At Defensive Cyberspace Operations, we support each other and that lets the right ideas flourish. Some of our best talents within DCO are junior Marines and no matter the rank, we look at the best idea and the best idea wins 100 percent of the time.”



    Date Taken: 11.15.2021
    Date Posted: 11.15.2021 14:41
    Story ID: 409319
    Location: FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, MD, US 

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