OKLAHOMA CITY --
As global challenges evolve, strategists are turning their attention to cyberspace and developing the tactics, techniques and procedures to safeguard our tomorrows, today.
That focus on cyber security served as the backdrop of the latest Oklahoma National Guard – Azerbaijan military knowledge exchange where the Oklahoma National Guard hosted three cyber security officers from the Azerbaijan army in late September.
The exchange paired members of the Oklahoma National Guard’s Defense Cyber Operations Element, a joint Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard team dedicated to cyber security, with the Azeri officers and focused on how to conduct an information systems audit.
Oklahoma Army National Guard Maj. Danny Slusarchuk, team leader of the DCOE, said knowledge exchanges help cyber experts collaborate on ideas and not only gain understanding of each nation’s issues but understanding the greater context those issues exist within.
Oklahoma Air National Guard Capt. Stephen Fuller, a member of the 137th Special Operations Communication Flight based at Will Roger Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, echoed Slusarchuk’s message adding the two partner nations must understand how each other operate in order to fully support one another.
“Knowledge exchanges allow us to see the full picture of what our partner nations are dealing with in terms of infrastructure, support, their challenges, successes and vice versa,” Fuller said. “We focused on familiarizing each other with each other's network and cyber structures, how our cyber personnel interact internally and externally on the unclassified level.”
Maj. Elshan Gasanov, a member of the Azerbaijan army’s cyber security team, said knowledge exchanges between partners are important because cyber threats are not bound by borders like traditional threats and it takes continual learning from each other to face those threats.
“All of the information in our day must be secret,” Gasanov said. “Much more for the military. The main forces like army, navy and air, must have a cyber force because all operations are operated through information technologies. As we know, if we have information technologies sites, we should defend those sites through cyber security.”
On top of discussions about information security, the exchange included a visit to the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services data center to highlight how the Oklahoma National Guard works hand in hand not only with military organizations but the state government as well to protect important data.
Fuller said the visit to the OMES data center was organized by Slusarchuk to show the Azeri officers how the Oklahoma National Guard partners with state government agencies through joint exercises as well as giving an idea how the state partners with the federal government and other state entities on cyber security initiatives.
Gasanov noted the importance of interagency cooperation and reiterated that cyber threats are not bound by borders or agencies.
“It doesn’t matter if you are military or you are a civilian,” Gasanov said. “You have to work together because the army is part of the civilian world, they should work together. When we take this uniform off, we are civilians. In our civilian lives, we have families to protect and that’s why it’s important to defeat all cyber attacks.”
Gasanov said he was impressed with the Oklahoma National Guard members in both their knowledge of their craft and the warmness mhe and the other Azeri officers were met with during their time in Oklahoma.
“I learned, not as a military man, as a human, you’re very kind and have a warm attitude here. It’s given me a good view. You have a good cyber team here and we can learn a lot from each other.”
Oklahoma Army National Guard Lt. Col. Sharon McCarty leads the Oklahoma National Guard’s State Partnership Program said exchanges like this gives National Guard members an up-close picture of the benefits of interoperability and the challenges to obtain it.
“They show how all over the world, Soldiers and Airmen face similar issues, but solutions are developed from a variety of vantage points,” McCarty said. “Developing a bigger picture makes us all better.”
The mission of the State Partnership Program is to support security cooperation objectives of the United States and the Geographic Combatant Commands by developing enduring relationships with partner countries and carrying out activities to build partner capacity, improve interoperability, and enhance U.S. access and influence while increasing the readiness of U.S. and partner forces to meet emerging challenges.
McCarty said knowledge exchanges contribute to that mission by deepening partnerships and developing capacity along aligned interest and quotes Rear Admiral John Menoni on why developing the SPP is important saying, “‘You can’t surge trust,’ Relationships develop over time and it’s too late if you wait until a crisis to develop trust and confidence with you allies and partners.”