An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | Sept. 9, 2022

A Palpable, High-Speed Connection

By Staff Sgt. Victoria Nelson

Inside the Salvadoran military's tactical training center, known as Centro de Etrenamiento Tactico, a cyber team from the New Hampshire Air National Guard shared new ideas with the country's growing cyber security unit.

The exchange, held in San Salvador, El Salvador from Aug. 22 to 26 under the New Hampshire National Guard-El Salvador State Partnership Program, focused on digital agendas, policies and tools to protect infrastructure and prevent vulnerabilities.

“This is what the state partnership program was built to do,” said Chief Master Sgt. Frederick Balas, chief enlisted manager of the 157th Communications Flight. “Sharing ideas to help them grow, learning about the ways we can support their needs, and answering questions that ultimately strengthen their systems and their security procedures.”

Salvadoran forces are working to form an official cyber security unit by 2024 with eight full-time members, according to 1st Lt. Marvin Giron, executive officer for the Salvadoran cyber security unit. It's a top priority for Salvadoran Defense Minister René Merino.

Briefings from the 157th CF team explored powerful tools to help the Salvadorans achieve that goal within their capabilities and budget.

“We may not have the exact same resources, but the group explained accessible programs that scan for vulnerabilities, how they work and how to manage them." said Ingrid Estrada, a software engineer assigned to the Salvadoran unit.

“There is a lot of pressure on our team to develop, support and guide the country in the direction we are trying to achieve,” she continued. “Cyber is everywhere and it touches everyone. It’s a huge project for a small group, but this training demonstrated it is possible and it gave us resources to get there.’’

Between them. the NH airmen and Salvadorans represented a range of technical experience and rank. For some, this was their first experience with the state partnership, while others have been involved since the first cyber exchange in 2016.

“Their leadership configuration mirrors the organization structure we presented and discussed during the previous mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Alan Dwyer, a client systems operations technician with the 157th CF and a member of the first New Hampshire team to work with El Salvador through SPP. “It’s so cool to see what was just a few people managing cyber protection turn into the formation of a cyber unit.”

Dwyer and Staff Sgt. Nathan Proulx, a client systems operations technician with the 157th CF, demonstrated open-source scanning software, training plans and automated tools. The airmen showed how the programs allow members to practice commands in a text-based operating system and ultimately support a stronger infrastructure.

“In order to support a strong national cyber security network, all of our members need to be certified and trained,” Giron said. “We hope to supplement our digital agenda with these training plans and methods for sharing information.”

“It is something we will keep close to our hearts,” he added. “The mentality of collaborating as a unit will help us achieve our future goals.”

By the end of the week, there was a palpable, high-speed connection between the two groups. Although they spoke different languages linguistically, they laughed and learned from one another while sharing the importance of becoming stronger together.

“The cyber landscape is only getting more complicated and more hostile,” Dwyer said “We are stronger when we are willing to learn from one another.”