North Dakota National Guard members participate in Cyber Shield 2021 at Camp Grafton Training Center, July 21, 2021. From left Sgt. Anthony Koistinen, Joint Force Headquarters, North Dakota National Guard; Staff Sgt. Samuel Sindelar, 119th Wing; and Sgt. Travis Dolan Joint Force Headquarters. Cyber Shield 2021 brought together more than 750 of the nation’s top cyber defense professionals from National Guard, along with various governmental, nongovernmental and industry partners in a hybrid in-person and online environment. (U.S. National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland, North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs Office/released)

By Bill Prokopyk, North Dakota National Guard

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (National Guard) – The North Dakota National Guard cyber experts participated in Cyber Shield 2021, the Department of Defense’s largest unclassified cyber defense exercise, from July 10 to 23.

“Cyber incidents are an ongoing and substantial threat in 2021; America’s power plants, food supply, water supply, health care, law enforcement and defense sectors have all come under attack,” said Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during a media roundtable June 29. “These cyber threats extend our adversaries’ reach across borders and time zones, and could have devastating consequences.”

About 25 North Dakota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen joined the exercise virtually from Camp Grafton Training Center near Devils Lake. The exercise, conducted primarily from Camp Williams, Utah, allowed military and civilian cyber experts to work together in addressing cyber protection challenges.

“This exercise provided excellent training for our Guard members while simultaneously allowing us to build relations with our military counterparts in other states and with supported civilian cyber personnel protecting critical infrastructure,” said Col. Dave Hall, chief information officer for the N.D. National Guard.

Cyber Shield 21 brought together more than 750 of the nation’s top cyber defense professionals from National Guard, along with various governmental, nongovernmental and industry partners in a hybrid in-person and online environment.

“The civilians integrated in the exercise gained a better understanding of the National Guard’s capabilities to support them and in turn we expanded our knowledge of the unique cyber challenges they face,” said 1st Lt. Scott Leier, lead exercise participant for the North Dakota National Guard. “This exercise also allowed us to build important relationships in a learning environment before we actually need to respond to a cyber-incident.”

There have been attacks or attempted attacks in every state. Though National Guard response isn’t needed for every attack, cyber defense experts stress the importance of planning and training together.