By Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 50th Operations and Network Operations Groups flexed their combat muscle Feb. 21-24 during the Combat Forward Leaning Exercise here.
The internal exercise tested the two groups’ ability to mitigate and respond to cyber, network and physical attacks against the systems here. Though the exercise ran the gamut of scenarios, many of them focused heavily on defending against cyber attacks.
“The cyberspace and space domains are heavily reliant upon each other to achieve combat effectiveness,” said Capt. Wayne Johnson, 50th Operations Support Squadron cyber weapons and tactics chief. “The number of cyber vulnerabilities and corresponding threats continue to grow, to which space assets are not immune. In order to maintain this high level of effectiveness in the space domain it is necessary to validate the tactics, techniques and procedures used to fight in a contested environment with an adversary.”
The exercise included all of the OG’s squadrons and many of the NOG’s squadrons.
When it comes to Combat FLEX, Col. John Shaw, 50th Operations Group commander, embraces the opportunities exercises of this nature bring.
“I think these exercises keep getting better because we keep learning new things and identifying new potential threats to our systems,” said Shaw. “We really have to be vigilant that what might seem to be random occurrences on the network and with the system aren’t just glitches, that they could be malicious in nature. We need to be able to recognize and respond to that.”
The complexity of the scenarios presented were the highlight for Col. Michael Finn, 50th Network Operations Group commander.
“This is a good exercise because we are really pushing the envelope,” said Finn. “In this type of environment and with the caliber of adversaries we face, we must really test ourselves to be ready if these scenarios were to ever actually happen.”
The outcome surpassed expectations of the 50 OSS Weapons and Tactics office, which facilitated the exercise.
“The combined efforts of the operations and network operations group achieved an outcome nothing less than excellent,” said Johnson. “Space and cyber operators worked together to battle through various levels of exercise inputs. As a result, we’ve formulated numerous lessons learned to improve and apply toward future operations.”
Ultimately the integration between the two groups and the lessons learned made the exercise a success to Col. Stanley Stafira, 50th Space Wing vice commander.
“What’s so great about this exercise is everyone is looking for places to learn,” said Stafira. “The integration and communication between the two groups during this exercise was great. Frankly, I would like to see more of it. Not just with operations and network operations but with the entire base. Everyone needs to be aware of these types of threats and what actions to take when presented with these types of scenarios.”