Article by Trace Christenson reprinted from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Adding a cyber operations squadron bolsters the future of the Battle Creek Air National Guard base, the commander said Thursday.
“It is a really exciting time for the 110th and it is really important for us,” Colonel Bryan Teff told reporters. “It will bring relevancy to the 110th for decades to come.”
The U.S. Department of Defense announced Wednesday that the 110th Attack Wing at the guard base will be one of four new sites for a Cyber Operations Squadron to detect and protect against electronic attacks.
“Our primary role will be in support of the Department of Defense and statewide,” Teff said. “Right now we experience millions of cyber attacks each day against the Department of Defense. We will defense networks and infrastructure when it comes to cyber communications. We will be focusing on the defense of that.”
He said Battle Creek’s mission will be to become one of 12 National Guard units across the country with a similar mission. The Air Force announced squadrons in Battle Creek, Virginia, Texas, and Idaho will join eight other established units with a similar duty.
But Teff said the exact duties and operation of the new unit won’t be determined for several months as the squadron is developed and personnel are assigned.
“We don’t know what we are going to do,” he said, “we will be defining our role. We will get this going as quickly as we can but we have an organized process we have to follow,” he said.
Likely to be called the 110th Cyber Operations Squadron, the unit will have 21 full time military members and 50 traditional National Guard members assigned, Teff said.
Some members already have training and experience in cyber operations from their involvement with the Michigan National Guard’s inaugural Cyber Range Hub, which opened in the Battle Creek in 2014.
The hub is part of the Michigan Cyber Range, launched in 2012, and allows for reenactment exercises and simulations that will test reaction and detection skills. The range was organized by the state, Merit Network, federal and local governments and colleges and universities. There are three additional hubs at Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, and Northern Michigan University.
The base has been working six years to be one of the new cyber units and Teff, who assumed command of the base on Saturday, said he was returning Wednesday from a trip to Washington, D.C., as Gov. Rick Snyder announced the decision.
“It was official while I was on a plane from Washington, D.C., and my phone literally blew up and I had 100 text messages and voicemails,” he said.
“It means our future is just fabulous,” Teff said. “The cyber mission secures a second growth mission here at the 110th.”
Teff said flying remotely piloted aircraft, sometimes called drones, and now the cyber unit, gives the base two missions growing within the Air Force.
Pilots and crews are training and flying the drones at other locations but eventually will return to Battle Creek. There are no immediate plans to put drones at the guard base.
“Both are growth missions at the 110th Attack Wing,” he said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the wing and the community to gain this mission as one of two growth mission in the United States Air Force and it is a tremendous opportunity.”
“Our vision in the wing is to be a high technology force and this new mission fits with other new missions at the 110th,” Teff said.
He said the new unit will be housed in one of three existing buildings on the base and he said minimal work will be needed to prepare the infrastructure.
Teff and representatives from Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph) said work by the Michigan Congressional delegation and local and state officials, including from the Michigan National Guard, as well as base personnel were instrumental in winning the new squadron.
“The primary reason is the great work of the men and woman of the 110th Attack Wing,” Teff said.