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Cyber Airmen train in weapons competition to increase cyber security

Six members from the 688th Operations Support Squadron stand in front of a television monitor.

Members of the 688th Operations Support Squadron gather for a group photo during the annual Weapons Cyber Competition at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Nov. 19, 2020. The team worked remotely to test defensive capabilities by conducting research and creating various challenges. From left, Steven Garcia, Brandan Neal, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Breslau, Michael Levesque, William Lopez, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Lewandowski, and Corey Mateo Morrison. (U.S. Air Force photo by Brandan Neal)

Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas -- Members of the 688th Cyberspace Wing participated in the annual Weapons Cyber Competition Nov. 16-20.

The competition provided an opportunity to hone and sharpen technical skills by providing a realistic, competitive environment to demonstrate and practice cyber tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) against a thinking/reactive adversary, without attribution or risk to live networks.

The event was geared towards securing and educating participants in cloud resources and defending against attacks.

Taking precautions against COVID-19, the competition was entirely virtual to minimize contact with more than 60 participants from nine squadrons across the wings.
Members of the 67th Cyberspace Wing and 960th Cyberspace Wing also participated in the competition.

“This is a great opportunity to train in a space where we get repetition and valuable feedback,” said Col. Richard Erredge, 960th Cyberspace Wing commander.

Participants were broken into teams and worked together on time sensitive tasks to counter adversary attacks in real-time to create a hands-on experience.

Select members of the 688th Operational Support Squadron took the role of adversaries called the Red Team. Their focus was to conduct research and create challenges that would test cyber teams’ ability to detect various activities.

Activities included downloading and extracting information, while scanning networks utilizing compromised computer systems and servers to trigger security events for teams to research, analyze, and report their findings.

Challenges were performed and created over different periods of time to make problems difficult to solve before the end of the competition. 

By the end of the competition participants learned how to assess defensive capabilities, and test the ability to identify and recommend innovative solutions to improve the network security posture.

“Hopefully you will be inspired from what you learned this week and share what you learned with your peers,” said Col. Jeffrey Blankenship, 688th Cyberspace Wing vice commander, during his closing remarks. “Look for ways you can implement what you learned and make us more effective and efficient at our job.”

The 688th Cyberspace Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, is aligned under Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber), Air Combat Command. The wing is the Air Force's premier cyberspace warfighting organization dedicated to delivering actionable intelligence and tactics, techniques, and procedures, deployable warfighter communications, engineering and installation capabilities, defensive cyber operations, and network security operations across the Air Force Information Network enterprise.

The 960th Cyberspace Wing, also headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, is aligned under Tenth Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command and has total force associations with units under Sixteenth Air Force.  The 960th CW is Air Reserve Command’s only Cyberspace Wing and the only Air Force Cyberspace Wing that operates all Air Force Defensive Cyber Operations weapons systems.