AMC Phoenix Cyber 2020: Accelerating change in cyber defense

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan C. Grossklag
  • 6th Air Refueling WIng Public Affairs

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Due to the advancement of technology, the increased necessity for cyber defense runs parallel to the threat of our near-peer adversaries and demands equal attention.

In an effort to collaborate and develop plans to defend the homeland, Air Mobility Command organized the Phoenix Cyber workshop, which was hosted by the 6th Communications Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 2-4, 2020.

The three-day conference was held partially in-person at the Davis Conference Center, with various attendees following along via teleconference. Units from the sphere of AMC sent leadership representatives to discuss current and emerging issues affecting mobility forces and impacting national security objectives.

The event kicked off with 6th Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Benjamin Jonsson, sharing his perspective on cyber defense, while echoing sentiments from Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. C. Q. Brown.

“General Brown emphasizes ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ and wants us to talk about it because it gives the right sense of urgency about the changes we need to make in order to be ready for that high-end fight,” explained Jonsson. “Whether you have a traditional communications background or spent more time in cyber roles, you are the experts for your wings and you need to bring that expertise to the table to accelerate change or lose.”

Keeping the CSAF’s words in the forefront, the engagements steered towards ways of advancing national cyber defense in-air and on the ground.

“The first line of attack is going to come through our networks – a cyber-attack,” emphasized Jonsson. “The things you’re doing in this workshop are critical, you are in the driver’s seat in terms of how we train, organize and equip for the future fight.”

The panel of guest speakers and presentations included senior cyberspace officers from Headquarters Air Force, 16th Air Force and special guest speaker Maj. Gen. (Ret.) John Maluda, who led a professional development course. The headlining events included presentations on flightline 5G capabilities, cyber perspectives from U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, and concluded with a tour of the Joint Communications Support Element facilities.

“This workshop is huge and having Col. Jonsson speak directly to cyber leaders on the panel is invaluable,” said Lt. Col. Justin Ellsworth, the 6th CS commander. “So as we listen to each other, we find new ways of solving complex problems, we get to see where the Air Force is focused and bring that back to our squadrons while building relationships with other leaders in our career field.”

The conference provided information, discussion and ideas that each cyber leader can bring back to their respective units to work towards advancing national cyber defense.

“Between Gen. Brown’s ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ and Col. Jonsson pushing us to go faster, we lead through challenges from near-peer threats,” said Ellsworth. “We need to lead the way because COVID-19 isn’t slowing down our adversaries, so neither should we – especially in the cyber domain.”