US Army activates first-of-its-kind Cyber Brigade

FORT MEADE, Md. — Net­work war­fare, cyber secu­ri­ty and the ille­gal release and post­ing of clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion on the inter­net are all hot top­ics in recent news head­lines — top­ics which the gov­ern­ment, and more impor­tant­ly its mil­i­tary, take seri­ous­ly.

The 780th Mil­i­tary Intel­li­gence Brigade con­duct­ed its first offi­cial brigade run on Dec 2, 2011, since the unit’s offi­cial acti­va­tion cer­e­mo­ny which was held on Dec. 1, at Fried­man Audi­to­ri­um, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
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The nature of that seri­ous­ness is evi­dent with the Army’s recent acti­va­tion of its first com­put­er net­work oper­a­tions brigade. 

With an urgent insis­tence and tremen­dous help from the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, Depart­ment of Defense and U.S. Cyber Com­mand, Army and Con­gres­sion­al staff, the U.S. Army Intel­li­gence and Secu­ri­ty Com­mand cre­at­ed the 780th Mil­i­tary Intel­li­gence Brigade to sup­port U.S. and Army Cyber Com­mands with their mis­sions to pro­vide a proac­tive cyber defense. 

In an event that marked the cul­mi­na­tion of years of prepa­ra­tion, the col­ors of the 780th MI Brigade were unfurled for the first time dur­ing an acti­va­tion cer­e­mo­ny at NSA’s Fried­man Audi­to­ri­um, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 1. 

“While nor­mal­ly it is enough to gath­er in time-hon­ored tra­di­tion to pass unit col­ors to mark the tran­si­tion of com­man­ders and con­ti­nu­ity of mis­sion, on real­ly rare occa­sions like today we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to acti­vate a new unit — hand-picked, specif­i­cal­ly recruit­ed and pur­pose built, which has and will con­tin­ue to con­tribute to a com­plex fight against those who present a clear and present dan­ger to our nation’s secu­ri­ty, while pro­vid­ing new and breath­tak­ing capa­bil­i­ties to our Army’s already impres­sive port­fo­lio of war fight­ing capa­bil­i­ties,” said Maj. Gen. Mary A. Leg­ere, INSCOM com­mand­ing general. 

Though ful­ly pre­oc­cu­pied with two wars in the Mid­dle East, engaged in oth­er oper­a­tions glob­al­ly and con­front­ed by resource con­straints that might have been an excuse for inac­tion, the Army empow­ered INSCOM to once again build a unit in response to a spe­cif­ic threat — pro­vid­ing it with the man­date, mis­sion and resources to form this brigade. 

In Decem­ber 2010, the Army approved the estab­lish­ment of an Army Cyber Brigade and des­ig­nat­ed the 780th MI Brigade to ful­fill this mis­sion with an effec­tive date of Oct. 1, 2011. 

“ ‘Nev­er rely too heav­i­ly on intu­ition. It will nev­er be a good sub­sti­tute for good intel­li­gence.’ ” said Leg­ere, quot­ing a phrase from Gen. Omar Bradley. “It is his spir­it, and in response to a sense of fore­bod­ing, that our Army has had the wis­dom to resource and cre­ate the 780th.” 

The cer­e­mo­ny also marked the assump­tion of com­mand for Col. Jonathan E. Sweet, as he accept­ed the col­ors from Legere. 

“August 19th, 1942, Maj. Gen. Lee, com­man­der of the new­ly formed 101st Air­borne Divi­sion, told his Sol­diers assem­bled at Camp Clai­borne, La., that ‘the 101st has no his­to­ry, but it has a ren­dezvous with des­tiny,’ ” said Sweet. “These men were the infantry’s best-of-the-best. They were select­ed, trained and deployed to counter an adver­sary that threat­ened our coun­try dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.” 

Sweet com­pared his new brigade to a more sea­soned one. 

“Like the 101st, the 780th MI Brigade has no his­to­ry, and was formed to counter an adver­sary oper­at­ing in a dif­fer­ent domain — a high­ly tech­ni­cal, man-made domain called cyber­space,” Sweet added. 

While rec­og­niz­ing numer­ous indi­vid­u­als respon­si­ble for the cre­ation of the brigade, and those who assist­ed his career accom­plish­ments, Sweet said it is an hon­or to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to return to Fort Meade and join Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Hoke, 780th MI Brigade com­mand sergeant major, to acti­vate, com­mand, and oper­a­tional­ize this incred­i­bly spe­cial brigade. 

“The first 26 miles of this marathon began in Octo­ber 2002, with the acti­va­tion of Detach­ment Meade. Since then it’s evolved and expand­ed into the Army’s Net­work War­fare Bat­tal­ion, assem­bled a head­quar­ters com­pa­ny and staff, and today the 780th MI Brigade,” said Sweet. “As we cross this fin­ish line and take a moment to enjoy the accom­plish­ment, we’re remind­ed that it’s mere­ly a tran­si­tion point, pro­vid­ing us enough time to catch our breath and get ready to step out across the start line for the next phase of what is actu­al­ly a triathlon.” 

The brigade’s 781st MI Bat­tal­ion and Head­quar­ters and Head­quar­ters Com­pa­ny, at Fort Meade, and the 782nd MI Bat­tal­ion, locat­ed at Fort Gor­don, Ga., will col­lec­tive­ly enable the unit’s mis­sion to con­duct sig­nals intel­li­gence, com­put­er net­work oper­a­tions, and when direct­ed, offen­sive oper­a­tions, in sup­port of DOD, Army and inter­a­gency oper­a­tions world­wide, while deny­ing the same to its adversaries. 

“This [acti­va­tion] is a trib­ute to the belief in the notion that our nation requires assured free­dom of maneu­ver in cyber­space in this era of per­sis­tent con­flict and the advent of the increas­ing­ly more sophis­ti­cat­ed threats to our secu­ri­ty,” Leg­ere added. 

Leg­ere added that the Army’s newest brigade is ful­ly pre­pared to assist Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, chief of staff of the Army, as they forge ahead in pro­mot­ing cyber defense and full-spec­trum Cyber Ops as one of their top pri­or­i­ties, and in help­ing Gen. Kei­th B. Alexan­der, com­man­der of USCYBERCOM and direc­tor of the NSA, as he con­tin­ues to edu­cate, implore and chal­lenge our nation’s lead­er­ship to take deci­sive action to devel­op and expand this kind of capa­bil­i­ty that is now so crit­i­cal to our nation’s security. 

“The chal­lenge to our nation in this domain is upon us. You see this every day. The future dan­ger that you envi­sioned has arrived,” said Leg­ere. “And the time for the men and women of the 780th to take your place in the Army’s long gray oper­a­tional line as a ful­ly resourced oper­a­tional unit ready for action is now.” 

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