By Spc. Ashton Koller
U.S. Army Central
Moving forward and adding others into the mix was the focus for the 2019 Best Cyber Warrior Competition at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, May 14 to 16.
Teams from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy as well as allies from the Kuwait Ministry of Defense, the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA), and the Kuwait National Guard participated in the fifth annual event hosted by 335th Signal Battalion (Theater) (Provisional).
The Best Cyber Warrior Competition is designed to challenge competitors in cybersecurity procedures in a deployed environment. This was the first contest of its kind to have service members from outside the Army; it was also the first year to have host-nation allies in attendance and competing.
Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon, senior enlisted advisor for Army Cyber Command, was in attendance for the competition and says she understands the importance of having Kuwaitis join the competition.
“Having the host nation being able to not only observe the competition but to participate was extremely important because it shows they want to build and to continue to increase our cooperation and our partnership,” said Lyon. “There was also a joint environment that I was very happily surprised to see with elements of every service here. That was very good to see because that team represents the way we must operate as a command.”
Lyon said she understands the importance of this year’s competition, working with other services as well as working with host nation service members.
“Learning from each other, helping to build the team, to train the team, best practices, best security measures, those are the things we really need to work together on so that we can have the best across the world,” said Lyon. “Cybersecurity is everywhere; it is a part of daily life for everyone, so having relationships with sister services as well as allies and partners is very important for the future of how we operate.”
With an increased number of participants from previous years, Lyon said that this competition speaks volumes on what it takes to truly be a cyber warrior.
“In order to bring them together for the competition, they needed to be able to contribute to the team because it was not just cyber Soldiers on the teams,” said Lyon. “To me that speaks volumes on what it takes to make a great cyber team that’s able to do the mission, so I think this competition was very indicative on that. It showcases how they can all work with each other, learn from each other, take best lessons learned, and I know they’ll be able to take them to other events in the future.”
This year also brought the U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, Lawrence R. Silverman, as a key note speaker for the first time during the event.
“The Best Cyber Warrior Competition greatly contributes to [Department of Defense] cyberspace objectives,” said Silverman. “Competition promotes creativity, creative and innovative solutions to cyber challenges facing the joint force. It will contribute to enhancing U.S. military advantages and missions in a contested cyberspace.”
Army Sgt. Christopher Hodges, who participated in the competition and works as an intelligence analyst with 1st Theater Sustainment Command, said he enjoyed the competitive atmosphere while getting to sharpen his cybersecurity skills.
“This was definitely a good scene-setter for the opportunities that I could find myself in, but also just getting an outline of what the entire cyber realm encompasses,” said Hodges. “It’s not a single facet. It’s a multifaceted warfighter function and was definitely a confidence booster to handle these events.”
Working as an intelligence analyst, Hodges said he understands the importance of good cybersecurity.
“Events like this are important because it incentivizes competitors and Soldiers alike to brush up on the basics when it comes to information security,” said Hodges.
Lyon said she was very pleased with the overall outcome of the event. Knowing how important this year’s competition was, she hopes to see it grow even more in the coming years.
“It was fun, it was motivational, it was challenging, and it had all the aspects to it that makes a good Soldier and warriors, so I would think that others would want to be invited in the future,” said Lyon. “It brought teams together from mostly all over the area of operation, there was one or two teams that came from state side. They come together and they put their skills to the test against each other. They had fun events; they had physical events; they had mentally challenging events, and they did it very well. They kept the motivation up and kept all the service men and women excited, and in that aspect I think they did a fantastic job with bringing out the best in all the participants.”
The competition ended with the announcement of the overall top three winners. Brigadier Gen. Nikki Griffin Olive, commanding general, 335th Signal Battalion, announced each team in the top three.
Team 335th Signal Battalion earned the first place; Team Regional Cyber Center-Southwest Asia (RCC-SWA) earned second; Team Istari from Task Force Spartan finished in third place.
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION