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NEWS | March 7, 2023

Bloomington-based Illinois National Guard Cyber Protection Team Share Defensive Cyber Skills with African Partners

By Staff Sgt. Luke Wilson and Capt. Joe Legros, U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa

Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers with the Bloomington-based 176th Cyber Protection Team used their expertise to help African partner nations bolster their cyber defenses during Africa Command’s Justified Accord 23 exercise.  

"Cyber is one more battlefield domain where defense is critical," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cory Robinson, 176th Cyber Protection Team, Illinois Army National Guard. "The combination of U.S., Ugandan and Kenyan participants showcased the multinational effort to address this emerging threat to African security."

The unit conducted the Defensive Cyber Operations Course in Nairobi, Kenya, during the exercise.  Justified Accord ran from Feb. 10 through Feb. 23. It is U.S. Africa Command’s largest exercise in East Africa. Led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, this multinational exercise brings together more than 20 countries from four continents to increase partner readiness for peacekeeping missions, crisis response and humanitarian assistance.

It was the first time the defensive cyber elements were included in the exercise. Justified Accord also included an African Union academics course, a multinational field training exercise, a live-fire exercise, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief projects.

"Cyberspace is an increasingly important aspect of our daily lives and it affects both our civilian and military operations,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kendra Tippett, chief of plans and exercises for the chief information officer or “G6” of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa.

“It is critical we understand the threats in cyberspace and effectively defend against them,” she added.

Tippett said multinational forces including Kenya and Uganda focused on key cyber aspects such as incident identification, threat intelligence, artifact collection, containment and eradication.

Kenya hosted activities primarily in Nairobi and Isiolo, while Uganda and Djibouti provided venues for additional exercise events.

“Working together in cyberspace with our African partners and sharing our best practices will ultimately enhance our ability to defend against malign actors who seek to degrade critical infrastructure and impede military and civilian operations," Tippett said.

SETAF-AF, based in Vicenza, Italy, is U.S. Africa Command’s lead agent for planning the Justified Accord exercise series conducted annually in East Africa. SETAF-AF is responsible for coordinating all U.S. Army activities in Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Europe and Africa. Activities include military readiness exercises across the continent, hundreds of security force assistance engagements, crisis response and enduring posture support. These engagements strengthen partner networks in Africa, build partner capacity against regional and global security threats, and provide strategic access for U.S. forces in contingency operations.