SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Backlit by the soft blue glow of nearly a dozen computer screens, a joint cyber team from the New Hampshire National Guard assessed El Salvador’s burgeoning cyber unit during a State Partnership Program exchange Dec. 5-9.
The Salvadoran team’s answers provided the New Hampshire Guardsmen with focus points for future briefings. The analysis will also be shared with other Guard units to design a large-scale communications exercise, Central America Guardian, with multiple Central American state partners.
“CENTAM Guardian will test our capabilities as a team in a cyber range network,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ben Bascom, the plans and integration superintendent with the 157th Communications Flight. “It will be the first time cyber is included as a part of the large-scale mission. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and their state partners will be able to practice their skills on a separate network you can attack without damaging the systems we use, like a large-scale readiness exercise but in cyberspace.
“It’s great to form these connections and relationships before the exercise,” he said. “We understand each other and already have a great foundation to build from.”
New Hampshire Army National Guard Sgt. Adam Dorian Wong, a threat researcher with the 136th Cybersecurity Unit, also discussed artificial intelligence and vulnerability identification. The information built on the previous exchange between the groups in August.
“Every single time we have worked together, we gained something new,” said 1st Lt. Marvin Giron, the executive officer for the Salvadoran cybersecurity unit. “We are looking forward to the next event. All of the new material is helping our team reach the goals and vision we have for the future.”
Wong said communications is interconnected with many fields of science and mathematics. Both the New Hampshire and Salvadoran cyber teams said they draw on their members’ career experiences.
Maj. Lance Garnett, Army section chief for the U.S. Embassy’s Security Cooperation Office, highlighted the significance of collaboration in the growing partnership.
“Cyber is getting bigger and bigger and it’s integral to information protection,” he said. “The State Partnership Program is so important. Guardsmen bring the unique experience they gain from their civilian careers as well as their technical knowledge. As we try to develop these long-term partnerships, we have continuity not only with processes and knowledge but the people as well.”
New Hampshire and Salvadoran team members shared ideas and ways to achieve common network security goals and cyber awareness.
“You are the protection,” Garnett said to the group. “The importance of everyone’s work is magnified at the international level. You are critical to the future of your country’s success in this new battle space.”
Throughout the week, the specialists’ partnership transcended language barriers, services and cultures.
“It was like seeing old friends,” said New Hampshire Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Nathan Proulx, a client systems operations technician with the 157th CF. “Even though we don’t speak the same language, I felt so welcomed. We both learn a lot from each other in different ways.”
Jonathan Flores, the infrastructure and security senior technician with the Salvadoran team, agreed.
“We thank you for your knowledge and ideas,” he said as the teams parted on the final day. “But above all, we thank you for your friendship.”