132d Cyber Range hosts first training event

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael J. Kelly
  • 132d Wing Public Affairs

The 132d Wing’s Cyberspace Range Squadron (RANS) hosted its first training event February 29-March 3, 2024, at the 132d Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, located in Des Moines, Iowa.

The 132d RANS is a first-of-its-kind cyber range provider for the Air National Guard, focusing on certifying cyberspace capabilities to the joint force.

Members of the 168th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, also attached to the 132d Wing, were the first clients of the range and utilized the training to hone their skills on the weapon system.

“The event hosted by the RANS provided an opportunity for our operators to train in a realistic and holistic manner that is not present in other training platforms,” said Capt. Joseph Wilburn, 168th COS team lead. “The RANS team and their weapon system simulator possess the flexibility to adapt to the operator’s specific training needs in real time that ensures skill improvement remains consistent throughout the event. The training event demonstrated by the RANS represents a significant force multiplier for Air National Guard cyber protection teams.”

The goal of the exercise was to increase the proficiency in which the 168th COS detects, validates, and responds to cyber threats. The exercises are designed to improve Cyber Mission Force mission readiness by providing scenarios as a service, meeting the annual training requirements of cyber units.

“Our first range event was significant because it proved to the cyber community that we are capable of providing this service and why Iowa is the right choice for the Range Squadron,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Taylor, 132d RANS commander.

Capt. Chad McDonnell, 132d RANS director of operations, explained that the training events are unique because they provide more than just a virtual range environment for cyber operators to practice on. The RANS provides all of the required roles from White Team (evaluators), Red Team (opposing force/adversaries running attacks), Cyber Intelligence (ensuring scenarios and attacks are realistic and relevant to what our adversaries are doing), and Mission Partner (an actual person to play the role of the organization the team is defending). Additionally, they build the range environment so their customers can deploy their physical cyber weapon system.

“This is not only important because it allows them to train like they fight, but it allows their maintenance team the opportunity to receive crucial training as well by physically deploying their equipment to an alternate location, configuring it to connect to the mission partner’s network, and providing weapon system maintenance for the operators during the event,” said McDonnell.

At the conclusion of the event, the exercise facilitators provided the 168th COS’s training, standards, and evaluation shop with a document that identified every task and event they accomplished to maintain their operator currencies and proficiencies.

“We’re able to do all of this because we have fully qualified cyber operators with real world mobilizations under their belt in addition to the years of experience in the civilian sector,” said McDonnell. “Our Airmen and the experience they bring is truly our greatest asset to this unit.”