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News | Dec. 14, 2022

NH Guard, Salvadoran cyber teams strengthen partnership

By Staff Sgt. Victoria Nelson

Backlit by the soft blue glow of nearly a dozen computer screens, a joint cyber team from the New Hampshire National Guard administered a concept assessment to El Salvador's burgeoning cyber unit during a recent State Partnership Program exchange in El Salvador on Dec. 5 - 9.

The trends of the Salvadoran team’s answers provided the NH Guardsmen with focus points for building 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 added. “We understand each other and already have a great foundation to build from.”

In addition to the assessment, NH Army National Guard Sgt. Adam Dorian Wong, a threat researcher with the 136th Cybersecurity Unit, presented new topics of interest including artificial intelligence and vulnerability identification. The information also 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 cyber security 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 and integrated with many fields of science and mathematics. Both the NH and Salvadoran cyber teams said they rely on the diversity of their member’s scientific careers and dissemination of their experience for the group’s success.

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.”

NH and Salvadoran team members empowered each other to succeed in their specific missions. They shared new ideas and developed new methods of achieving 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’ growing partnership transcended language barriers, services and cultures.

“It was like seeing old friends,” said NH 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.”