Utah Air National Guard Transitions to Cyber Warfare with the 109th Air Control Squadron

  • Published
  • By TSgt Nicholas Perez
  • 151st Wing

The Utah Air National Guard's 109th Air Control Squadron is undergoing a significant transformation, marking its shift toward the forefront of cyber warfare. This move represents a new frontier in military technology, necessitating a focused and dedicated effort from its members. As battlefield management doctrines evolve, this transition highlights a critical need for adaptation, ensuring the 109th remains relevant in modern combat.

The 109th Air Control Squadron recently held a significant two-week drill, encapsulating its commitment to mastering air battle management. This training focused on offensive and defensive strategies, emphasizing the historical significance of its established practices.

Lt. Col. Joshua McCarty, commander of the 109th ACS, highlighted the drill's dual purpose: "This annual training period is significant because it is likely our last in the current configuration. We are transitioning into two cyber units, drastically changing our equipment and personnel structure.”

During these two weeks, the squadron undertook rigorous missions designed to hone their skills in real-time battle management. From directing aircraft to managing complex logistical support for operations, these tasks were both familiar and bittersweet. The drill included hands-on training with the squadron's extensive equipment—radars, communication sets, and mobile command centers—integral to their current role but soon to be phased out, they also performed a two-chalk convoy throughout parts of Utah. This last drill was not just about practice; it was a critical operational test, ensuring that their capability to support current defense needs remains uncompromised even as they prepare to transition.

The recognition of cyber capabilities as a tactical asset is growing at the highest levels of the National Guard and the U.S. Air Force. The decision to transition the 109th reflects a broader strategy to enhance national security in a digital age. With Global Power Competition ever present and players like China and Russia advancing in the cyber domain, the U.S. must adapt to maintain its strategic advantage.

Traditionally known for their expertise in battlefield supervision, the Warlocks of the 109th are now embracing the dynamics of electronic warfare. This shift is a direct response to warfare's evolving nature, where battlefields extend into the digital realm. The global competition for influence and dominance underscores the importance of securing the digital domain, making it a critical element of national security strategy.

McCarty continues, "Cyber is the future of warfare. It's going to evolve, and it is currently evolving. We need to be ready to tackle challenges not just in the air but in cyberspace as well." This transition is about changing tactics and preparing for the future of conflict.

This new mission brings logistical challenges, including redeploying equipment and reconfiguring facilities for high-security cyber operations. The extensive retraining required of the squadron's personnel is a significant undertaking, demanding time and dedication. Despite these challenges, the opportunities in cyber defense are vast, and they require valuable skills in both military and civilian contexts.

The 109th is at the vanguard of innovation, representing a strategic tier dedicated to safeguarding the nation. The cyber operations range from protecting American information systems to disrupting adversary networks through proactive digital operations. The goal is to defend and maintain America's superiority in the digital arena.

As the 109th ACS embarks on this transformative journey, its role in national defense is more crucial than ever. It is prepared to face the ever-evolving threats of tomorrow's cyber battlefields, standing ready with steadfast courage and a blend of traditional and modern approaches.

The 109th Warlocks are not just adapting; they are leading the charge into the future of cyber warfare, ensuring that the Utah Air National Guard remains a critical component of national security in the digital age.