Dragon Battalion builds its own IA Team
USAG DAEGU, South Korea -- Information Assurance, or the systems the Army uses to protect unclassified, sensitive, or classified information stored, processed, accessed, or transmitted by information systems, at the battalion level is typically run by civilians who have the specialized training, certificates and skill-set to complete the mission.
However, leaders in the 36th Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade, saw the issue inherent with only having civilians trained and filling the positions to protect their portion of Army network in Korea. What happens in crisis when those civilians are evacuated during the Noncombatant Evacuation Operations process?
Their answer was to create their own IA Cell with Soldiers as a part of the team.
"Having our IA Cell on Camp Walker allows them to work in our Southern Node, and it puts them right in the heart of network operations in Area IV," said Maj. Sean P. McCafferty, operations officer for 36th Signal Battalion. "It allows the Soldiers to interface with our Network and Switch Division and our Desktop and System Support Division, as they all work in the same building."
McCafferty said his battalion also has Soldiers and civilians working together conducting the IA mission in Area III at USAG Humphreys, and that 41st Signal Battalion is standing up their own IA Cell at USAG Yongsan. He said having IA Cells at each of these locations ensures the full integration of IA into Signal operations.
"As our military becomes more dependent on technology and the flow of information, we need to ensure that we protect our ability to communicate and process data," said McCafferty. "The cyber domain is rising, and will become ever more prominent in the future of military operations and strategy, and our IA cell helps us operationalize cyber at the Battalion level. If we don't protect our information and ability to communicate, we cannot help the warfighter in a time of crisis."
Capt. David A. Seiden, commander, 14th Signal Detachment, tasked with the IA mission said the Information Assurance Cell deals primarily with identifying vulnerabilities and stopping malicious activity before it occurs. He said they provide 24/7 network monitoring and incident response and feels that that Information Assurance is the center of gravity for establishing trust on our network and ensuring secure world class network services on the peninsula.
Jared B. Maschek, Information Assurance Manager for 36th Signal Installation Campus, currently in charge of the IA Cell, is one of two Department of the Army civilians currently cross-training a group of highly motivated signal Soldiers.
Maschek said they have already been teaching the Soldiers to do vulnerability scanning, network accreditation and account management. Eventually he would like to get them fully incorporated with all the IA policies and contingencies to check the network and ensure that it is fully compliant.
He said one of the challenges with bringing Soldiers into IA is that there is a really steep learning curve. However, he said the Soldiers assigned to IA want to learn, even to the point of staying a little longer in the evenings to do additional training and additional learning.
"Soldiers typically work on the tactical network," said Maschek. "There are very few places in the Army where Soldiers are able to get on to the strategic network, let alone do the IA portion."
McCafferty said the IA Cell Soldiers are selected based on their ability to understand the mission of Information Assurance, their certifications, and their desire to be involved in something cutting edge. Already members of the 14th Signal Detachment, a Communication Security detachment, they possess an understanding of the need to protect communications. He indicated that being selected as member of the IA Cell will broaden the Soldiers' understanding of the Signal Corps and set them up for success as they move on to other units after their time in Korea.
Spc. Emily R. Atkins, currently working as an IA Assistant, said she volunteered for the assignment and that she has thoroughly enjoyed it.
"This is quite a unique opportunity," said Atkins, who feels the training she is receiving in IA will serve her well.
McCafferty extolled the importance of IA as an integral part of any operation, not just for Signal units. He said IA cell is an integral part his battalion's operations, and the mix of Soldiers and Civilians allows them the capability to respond 24 hours a day, while also maintaining continuity of the institutional knowledge necessary to continue operations during the perpetual transition of military personnel.
"It is a great example of how we as a Battalion are operationalizing cyber, and employing our Soldiers and civilians as efficiently and effectively as possible," said McCafferty.
The 1st Signal Brigade enables joint and combined command, control, communications, computers, and information management operations throughout Korea to support United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, United States Forces Korea, and Eighth Army's ability to lead, direct and maneuver available forces during armistice, crisis, or war.