Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ian Bergman, a defensive cyberspace operator, with 9th Communication (Comm) Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, hacks into a system while engaged in the Marine Corps 2020 Cyber Games at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Nov. 19, 2020. 9th Comm participated in the cyber games to enhance their skills and to develop tactics and techniques while competing against other teams across the United States. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick Katz)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick Katz

The Hacking Games

7 Jan 2021 | Lance Cpl. Issac Velasco I MEF Information Group

As America’s force in readiness, the Marine Corps must be ready for battle, on land, sea, air, and also within the digital battlespace. Marines with 9th Communication Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, competed in the Marine Corps Cyber Games, Nov. 19, 2020.

Marines of the 6th, 8th and 9th Communication Battalions were pitted against each other from locations across the United States to attack and defend in a capture-the-flag competition.

The Cyber Games provided an opportunity for units to tackle problems from different angles. Each team had different objectives to achieve and attempted to tap into various networks. Following the conclusion of the event, all defensive cyberspace operations, or DCO, teams and cyber protection teams, or CPT, discussed how they breached the systems and how to protect against future breaches.

Warrant Officer Cody Witter-Campbell, a defensive cyberspace weapons officer with 9th Communication Battalion, led his team in their quest to capture their enemies’ flags.

“One of the main purposes of the games is to get all the DCOs and CPTs to work together on how to solve problems and issues within the systems,” said Witter-Campbell. “It's a capture-the-flag event; each team gets points for every milestone they reach. This is a fully controlled environment, testing on each of the hidden flags and clues.”

Although consisting mainly of DCO Marines, an intelligence analyst joined the team to learn the ropes and cross-train in another field. Cpl. Bethany Leer, an intelligence analyst with 9th Communication Battalion, participated in her second exercise. Leer normally provides intel reports to cyber Marines.

“I think it's interesting,” said Leer. “I'm normally not around to see what they do with the intelligence we provide them; now I am learning how to apply it.”

Not only do these games provide a training aspect, but it also gives Marines a chance to compete against an adaptive opponent.

“Competition, just like anything in the Marine Corps, everyone wants competition.” said Witter-Campbell. “Although this is an important event, it's a fun thing to do and it breaks people out of the office. We are able to come together during training to focus on something very specific.”

The event not only provided a competitive environment, it also gave Marines the chance to heighten their skills. Each breach in the network was a lesson for the DCO Marines: Always be prepared for an attack in the ever-changing digital landscape.

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