Global Lightning electrifies the joint fight


Multiple units from 24th Air Force participated in the U.S. Strategic Command's Global Lightning 14, a combatant command-level exercise May 12-16.


"Global Lightning provided a great opportunity to work with the USSTRATCOM team to integrate cyberspace operations into larger operational efforts," said Maj. Gen. J. Kevin McLaughlin, 24th AF commander. "We also strengthened our partnership with the 8th Air Force team to defend their key mission systems.  From the tactical level through operational command and control, we were able to exercise both supported and supporting roles while conducting defensive cyber operations."


This year's exercise was the first time 24th AF operated as a Joint Force Headquarters - Cyber in support of a combatant commander during a large joint exercise, said Lt. Col. Shane Ducommun, 24th AF deputy director of cyberspace operations and plans.


"In our JFHQ-C role, we were the command and control authority for directing assigned cyber forces," said Ducommun. "We also performed our Air Forces Cyber role as the service component to U.S. Cyber Command during the exercise."


"We demonstrated a level of cyberspace integration and execution that has never been accomplished before," said Maj. Kris Barcomb, 24th AF chief of cyberspace strategy, who led a team of cyberspace experts deployed to USSTRATCOM during the exercise.  "The team was able to help drive the

totality of the effort from strategic planning to tactical execution and reporting."


Defensive cyber operations, specifically, were utilized to defend Air Force Global Strike Command's 608th Air Operations Center from a simulated threat.


Air Force Global Strike Command is a service component to USSTRATCOM, and the 608th AOC plans, directs and assesses daily operations which employ both kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities in support of USSTRATCOM.


"The sharing of cyber threats, intelligence information, tactics, techniques and procedures are essential to stay ahead of threat actors and adversaries," said Lt. Col. Tom Richardson, 67th Cyberspace Wing director of operations.  "Exchanging important cyber threat information and mitigation strategies across our sister services, other Department of Defense agencies, private sector and even across borders allows us to pool our resources to counter this rapidly changing threat."


Critical to the cyber defense was the 33rd Network Warfare Squadron of the 67th CW, which worked to defend against simulated enemy activity on the Air Force network.  The 33rd NWS sent three operators to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, in addition to participating in the exercise from JBSA-Lackland,



Other units from the 67th CW also played an instrumental role in the exercise.  The 26th, 83rd and 561st Network Operations Squadrons from Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; and Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, respectively, participated in the exercise by enabling and preparing their own pieces of the network so the 33rd NWS was better able to defend it.  


"Network defenders need to have the opportunity to find, fix and engage the adversary to decipher enemy intentions and allow our cyber warriors to develop new counter tactics and mitigation techniques," said Richardson. 


"It is important to practice how we would defend the network if an adversary would try to attack," said 1st Lt. Luke Travis, operations training chief and mission commander for Global Lightning in the 33rd NWS.  "In the case of this exercise and the 608th AOC, it enables Air Force Global Strike Command

to continue its mission. We are practicing important defensive capabilities for use in plausible real world scenarios."


Global Lightning exercises are designed to challenge and validate the responsiveness and flexibility of the strategic military capabilities assigned to USSTRATCOM and to showcase the agility of space and cyber forces to respond to uncertainties and defend U.S. assets.  


"We use this exercise as a basis for evaluation for previously untested capabilities," said Travis.  "We were defending an enclave critical to command and control, which is necessary to keep the mission going."


The 688th Cyberspace Wing also got in on the action for Global Lightning 14. Teams from the 90th and 92nd Information Operations Squadrons worked to deploy Cyber Protection Teams and integrate real-time operations and innovation processes into the exercise. 


"The exercise aided in the continuing development of CPT deployment and employment by identifying the methods by which USSTRATCOM will task CPTs to deploy in support of operations," said Shawn Taylor, 688th CW chief of current operations. "The 688th CW gained a wealth of information from being

integrated into the tasking process.  In the future, this will allow for more efficient deployment of CPTs in exercises and operations," said Taylor.


In addition to these units, the 624th Operations Center played a key role in command and control of Air Forces Cyber forces.


"The exercise provided an opportunity to defend both secure and unsecure networks," said Mark Waite, Combat Operations Division deputy chief.  "It helped us to streamline processes and was a good learning experience."


"As network defenders, we know we are only as strong as our weakest link, so it behooves us to participate in exercises like this to challenge our operators to think outside of the box," said Richardson. "Proper training, education and the ability to exercise that expertise in a real-time environment is a critical element that ultimately determines mission success in the cyber battle space."