NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. –
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Standing at 5-foot, 1-inch, soft-spoken, and genteel; Missouri Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Katie Herrell doesn’t loom large when she enters a room.
But to the National Guard’s cyber defense community, Herrell is a giant.
“Katie is vitally important to the exercise and to the Army National Guard cyber defense community,” said George Battistelli, the Cyber Shield 2022 exercise director, and the deputy chief information officer for the Army National Guard. “In many ways, she is the puppet master of the exercise. She is pulling the strings behind the scenes to make the exercise effective and successful, while never really getting the limelight she deserves.”
Herrell served as the senior controller for Cyber Shield 2022, which ran from June 5-17 at the Army National Guard Professional Education Center on Camp Joseph Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Senior controller requires vast knowledge of cyber threats, superior technical knowledge, creativity and a lot of hard work, Battistelli said.
The senior controller is responsible for multiple critical functions in the exercise including setting up the various cyber ranges for each team, assessing intelligence for realistic cyber threats, helping develop the opposing force plan, and integrating legal support, information operations, cyber forensics, network owners and exercise assessments.
“All these functions allow the Defensive Cyber Operations Elements and the Cyber Protection Teams to learn new skills and apply them in a realistic environment,” said Missouri Air National Guard Col. Mark Bradley, the J6 (Director of Cyber) for the Missouri National Guard and the Cyber Shield 2022 Officer-in-Charge of the White Cell. The White Cell provides command and control over exercise simulations to create a realistic training environment and scenario.
Herrell was the driving force behind the exercise’s scenario, creating new, realistic and technically challenging problems for the approximately 800 cyber service members and civilian partners involved. This year’s scenario centered around protecting the Department of Defense’s information network against what’s called a “supply chain attack” similar to the SolarWinds attack that struck many corporate and government networks in 2020 to 2021.
Herrell has been actively involved with the nationwide exercise since its inception more than 10 years ago.
“Katie’s work with the exercise, most of it unpaid, has improved the skills of literally thousands of both Army and Air National Guard cyber warriors as well as various other military components and civilian partners,” said Illinois Army National Guard Lt. Col. Jeff Fleming, the Cyber Shield 2022 and 2023 officer-in-charge.
“Training hundreds of Cyber Warriors across all branches is a huge lift and takes months of prior planning, as well as a level of expertise that is difficult to get. Yet the Missouri National Guard’s own cyber guru, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Katie Herrell, fits the bill,” Bradley said. “She is a key cyber leader in Missouri and she has shown great leadership at the national level for the entire National Guard.”
Bradley called Herrell “a unique and valued asset” in the National Guard. “Her knowledge and expertise were instrumental in planning and executing a successful exercise where cyber operators were able to train and gain valuable skills used to protect DOD critical infrastructure.”
Herrell said she appreciates the praise from the exercise’s top leaders, but said the exercise is a success year after year because it has a great team.
“We have a wonderful group of hard-working and highly skilled people that just have a great passion for this work and in making Cyber Shield a great exercise,” Herrell said.
The annual exercise, led by the Army National Guard and assisted by the Air National Guard, is a concentrated effort to develop, train and exercise cyber forces in the areas of computer network internal defensive measures and cyber incident response, according to the National Guard Bureau.
These cyber defensive measures can be employed to defend and protect critical cyber infrastructure including industry, utilities, schools, health care, food suppliers as well as military networks.
“Cyber warfare is not just our future — it is our contemporary reality,” said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau during an April U.S. Cyber Command summit. “The National Guard is positioned to be leaders in the digital domain and continues to enhance our nation’s cyber capabilities in combat and in the homeland.
“With 4,000 National Guard cyber operators across 40 states, many working for leading tech companies, the National Guard has the knowledge, skills and abilities to play a critical role in the DOD’s cyber enterprise,” he added.