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 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.”