Tennessee Guardsmen facilitate cyberattack exercise with surrounding community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Melissa Dearstone
  • 119th Cyber Operations Squadron

Information Technology specialists and legal advisors from the Tennessee National Guard came together with local Greeneville agencies for the first time to assist in a table-top cyber exercise Dec. 3.


The exercise included Soldiers and Airmen from Knoxville, Tennessee Joint Force Headquarters in Nashville and the Kansas National Guard working with Greeneville entities such as the sheriff’s department, local police, Greeneville City Schools, local healthcare facilities, and city and county mayors along with other local agencies that may be affected in the event of a cyberattack.


Personnel gathered at the Greeneville Emergency Operations Center where they were briefed by local leadership as well as leadership from the 119th Cyber Operations Squadron, who organized the scenario and were in charge of facilitating the exercise.


“The reality is worst case scenarios do happen, and although the likelihood is low, you do not want to be put in a position where you are unprepared,” said Col. Chris Smith, 119th COS commander.


Greeneville City Administrator Todd Smith, who is also a lieutenant colonel and plans and programs officer for the 119th COS, said in today’s time, a cyberattack could really happen even in a smaller town.


“Last year, Spring Hill, Tennessee, had a cyberattack costing them over $100,000 and three to four months of work among public organizations to get it fixed,” said Smith.  “This was considered a small cyberattack, so these types of things could really happen.”


As the exercise kicked off and the scenario was briefed, local agencies worked together to decide on the processes and planning that would need to take place in the event of an attack. Guard members were there to not only facilitate, but to also figure out where they could lend a helping hand in the event of a real-world situation.


Capt. Chris LaBanca, 119th COS cyber warfare officer, said this type of exercise is new to them too, so everyone is learning together.


“This is the first time we have done this type of exercise, and it is the first time for Greeneville as well,” said LaBanca.  “Our goal here today is to explore and get a better understanding as to what the Tennessee National Guard can do to help the local communities in response to a cyberattack.”


The response to the exercise was overwhelmingly positive by Greeneville personnel and Guard members.


“Between 60-70 personnel attended the event,” said Lt. Col. Scott Wenger, 119th COS strategy division.  “This was a great opportunity for the Tennessee National Guard to demonstrate their ability to coordinate, train, assist and advise during domestic events requiring domestic support to civil authorities.”