One of the newest transitions to take place in the Washington Air National Guard has been the conversion of a former Combat Communications Squadron into an Information Warfare Aggressor Squadron (IWAS).
Being the first unit of this type in the Air National Guard and only the second in the Air Force, the 262 IWAS has been tasked with the mission of finding potential vulnerabilities of Air Force computer systems and Operations Security (OPSEC) measures.
Since its official inception, a little less than two years ago, the squadron has maintained a very high operational tempo, as a result of the on-going war on terrorism, focusing on cyber-attack and physical security. The National Guard Bureau gave the Military Department of the State of Washington formal approval to establish the first ever Information Warfare Team (IWT) in August of l999, which was lead by Maj Zonna Crayne. On June 1st, 2002, after several years of extensive coordination and training, Washington Air National Guard officials participated in a remissioning ceremony, marking the beginning of the 262nd Information Warfare Aggressor Squadron (IWAS).
The newly established information warfare squadron's mission is to conduct adversarial information warfare operations and vulnerability assessments by employing realistic threats and tactics, thus enhancing the Air Force's defensive counter-information posture. The focus is on two types of vulnerability assessments. The first deals with Computer Network Assessments (CNO), which looks at computer network systems and cyber security, while the second deals with Multi-Disciplinary Vulnerability Assessments (MDVA) which include the Operations Security (OPSEC) measures of a military installation.
In December 2003, Lt Col Jill A. Lannan assumed command of the 262 IWAS from Lt Col Herb Porter, who was instrumental in leading the remissioning phase of the unit, going from a Combat Communications Squadron located in Bellingham, WA to its present location at McChord Air Force Base, WA.
During his two and a half year tenure, Lt Col Porter worked diligently at making the transition as smooth as possible, coordinating efforts by several key organizations. This included the National Guard Bureau, the Air Force Information Warfare Center (AFWIC), and the 92nd IWAS, (the active duty sister squadron of the 262), enabling the Washington Air Guard to proceed with its operational mission while at the same time meeting the numerous administrative requirements of an Air Force organization in transition.
Former Commander Lt Col Porter summarized the importance of the IWAS mission and the invaluable assets provided by its highly skilled members: "With the reality of cyber-terrorism on a daily basis, the mission of the IWAS is extremely critical."
"In many respects, it is the first line of defense in the war of defensive counter-information, which is protecting our computer network systems and military installations."
"It is crucial that our folks find the vulnerabilities and weaknesses rather than the bad guys, because if they find them...it will be too late. Our members have the skills and the talents to get the job done and stay ahead of the enemy. Protecting our information systems is just as critical today as safeguarding American air, land, and sea", concluded Porter.
This unique organization utilizes the expertise of 104 highly skilled guard members, many of whom also hold civilian jobs and are employed by Seattles leading high-tech industries. The Information Warfare Aggressor Squadron is composed of experts in telecommunications, engineering, programming and network security. It is the nucleus for future information warfare missions. Traditional Washington Air Guard members devote time each month to the team while maintaining their civilian professional careers.
Major General Frank Scoggins, Assistant Adjutant General and Commander of the Washington Air National Guard salutes the civilians who have displayed remarkable patriotism by dedicating their services to the Washington Air National Guard.