DISA and Army Reserves reset teaming efforts to support 24/7 cyber mission

by Renee Hatcher
Digital Communication
April 13, 2022

About 50 members of the Defense Information Systems Agency Army Reserve Element, a unit of reservist soldiers, met with DISA leadership at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, on March 4 to support DISA’s no-fail mission to enable lethality in defense of our nation.

DISA’s Cyberspace Operations Directorate, comprised of about 2,300 personnel in more than 10 countries and 13 states, hosted the soldiers for a day of operational briefings, leadership engagements and an awards presentation. The leadership engagement was the unit’s first time back at DISA headquarters since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve proven over the last few years that we can maintain relationships virtually,” Wassel said. “But, when you are building relationships, getting knee-to-knee makes a big difference.”

Throughout the day, soldiers practiced defending and protecting the DISA portion of the Department of Defense Information Network. They shared skills and expertise in systems administration, technical support, network services, cyber defense infrastructure support, vulnerability management, and cyber defense analysis, which is a force multiplier for DISA.

With 125 soldiers assigned to the DISA Army Reserve Element in four detachments – Huntsville, Alabama; Fort Carson, Colorado; Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; and Fort Meade, Maryland, the soldiers bring thought, age, skill and cultural diversity; some work for banks, big and small companies, as well as DISA.

“This is a special group of folks who have already served our nation, have their own lives now, and yet they choose to keep serving,” said Joe Wassel, head of DISA’s Cyberspace Operations Directorate. “Coming together with them was very powerful. It was important to me to make sure they know who we are, why we are here and what we’re about.”

DISA Army Reserve Element training coordinator, Master Sgt. Shakira Hicks, joined the Army in 2004 and has been with the unit since March 2016. Hicks ensures that soldiers are prepared for the Cyber Network Defenders course and that they continue to build their skillset. She wanted to be part of DISA to align her military experience with her civilian career in cybersecurity as an information systems security engineer lead/technical program manager.

“DISA has a lethal cyber capability in the Army Reserve Element that has not yet been realized or used,” Hicks said. “I am looking forward to seeing that change and having our soldiers fully engaged in the mission.”

 

Army Lt. Col. Kevin Sturm, commander of the DISA Army Reserve Element, presents Joe Wassel, head of DISA’s Cyberspace Operations Directorate, with the first of ARE’s newest coin during the unit’s drill weekend at agency headquarters March 4. (Photo by Eric Glisson)

 

 

Army Lt. Col. Kevin Sturm, commander of the DISA Army Reserve Element, presents Joe Wassel, head of DISA’s Cyberspace Operations Directorate, with the first of ARE’s newest coin during the unit’s drill weekend at agency headquarters March 4.

(Photo by Eric Glisson)


 

"We are well on our way to interacting as one team,” Budd said.

Some areas where the DISA Army Reserve Element can help the agency continue to meet requirements include preparing secure mobile devices to get them into the field faster, configuring and maintaining internet access points for all of DOD, performing full spectrum cyber analysis to ensure cloud security and to harden networks.

Considering the pace at which cyber technology advances, another way the soldiers plan to support DISA’s no-fail mission is to make sure agency playbooks don’t get stale. Tactics and procedures written this year might not be relevant next year. Keeping agency playbooks and checklists operationally relevant to DISA’s fight is critical to how it operates. This talent-heavy organization is uniquely qualified to help the agency standardize and train the force within cyberspace operations.

The tactical nature of DISA Army Reserve Element’s contributions align with the strategic vision of the DISA director to prioritize command and control, and always be ready to fight.

“We are well on our way to interacting as one team,” Budd said.

Some areas where the DISA Army Reserve Element can help the agency continue to meet requirements include preparing secure mobile devices to get them into the field faster, configuring and maintaining internet access points for all of DOD, performing full spectrum cyber analysis to ensure cloud security and to harden networks.

Considering the pace at which cyber technology advances, another way the soldiers plan to support DISA’s no-fail mission is to make sure agency playbooks don’t get stale. Tactics and procedures written this year might not be relevant next year. Keeping agency playbooks and checklists operationally relevant to DISA’s fight is critical to how it operates. This talent-heavy organization is uniquely qualified to help the agency standardize and train the force within cyberspace operations.

The tactical nature of DISA Army Reserve Element’s contributions align with the strategic vision of the DISA director to prioritize command and control, and always be ready to fight.


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