NOVEMBER 2, 2021 – The Marine Corps has activated a new unit of cyber warriors in New Orleans to combat the ever-increasing threats in cyberspace in an effort to unify all cyber operations across the Corps. Unbeknownst to many, adversaries are disregarding traditional boundaries in attempts to disrupt and degrade communications, as well as, steal critical defense information on a daily basis. This unit is responsible for hardening, defending, and countering those threats for the Reserve Component spread across the United States at 158 Home Training Centers.
“Every future armed conflict will involve contesting over cyberspace in one aspect or another,” said Arthur Ross, the director of Network Activity Reserve. “Whether the Marine Corps is conducting defensive cyberspace operations (DCO), offensive cyberspace operations (OCO), or defense information network (DODIN) operations, we are constantly looking at ourselves and asking how we can do better. We’re already looking towards what the fight will look like in 2030. As the terrain in cyberspace changes, we’ll change with it.”
Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command (MARFORCYBER) stood up Network Activity Reserve (NetAct-Res), Nov. 1, 2021, at Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans. Instead of operationally reporting to Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES), this new unit will fall under the command and control of Marine Corps Cyberspace Operations Group (MCCOG), MARFORCYBER, in order to streamline and standardize operations globally under the U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM).
“When the unit is initially staffed it will consist of a combination of 43 active duty MARFORCYBER Marines, 23 Government Service civilians, and 118 contractors,” said Maj. Vincent Sapeda, the executive officer of NetAct-Res. “These 184 people are all currently MARFORRES personnel and are being moved under the command of MARFORCYBER.”
The Marine Corps is establishing three network battalions and three network activities. The network battalions provide general support to each Marine Expeditionary Force, while the network activities are assigned to a geographic region and suited to support nearby establishments, such as Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans, the Headquarters of MARFORRES. NetAct-Res is the final network unit to activate.
These six units are being created to clear up command and control relationships, and secure, operate and defend the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN) under one commander.
“[NetAct-Res] will ensure information technology services are available to MARFORRES users to the maximum extent possible, so that MARFORRES can prepare forces to augment the active component,” said Sapeda. “Also, it will provide ever-present, reliable, and secure communications that enable Marines to be ready to fight and win at any time or place.”
According to Ross, this consolidation of cyber forces under a single commander is one way the Marine Corps is modernizing its force structure and operations.
“Establishing the Network Battalions and Activities under one commander enables the MCCOG to standardize processes across the MCEN and streamlines our efforts to provide our customer, the U.S. Marines Corps, with fast, reliable, and secure communications,” said Ross. “This offers a seamless command and control (C2) construct that empowers the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, through the commander of MCCOG to respond to emerging needs and threats in a way they have not been able to in the past. The Marine Corps is modernizing its forces.”
With the Marine Corps modernizing how it commands and controls its enterprise network, NetAct-Res will prevent and counter adversarial cyber-attacks and minimize network disruptions and outages in their respective region.
“On a day-to-day basis, NetAct-Res will install, operate, maintain, and secure current servers aboard Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans and ensure reboots take place to install patches to deter any viruses our network may encounter,” said Sgt. Carlos Gonzales, a data systems administrator with MARFORRES.
The MCEN is the network the Marine Corps uses to provide robust, seamless, and secure end‐to‐end communications for all Marines from the supporting establishment to forward-deployed forces. The Marine Corps plans to enhance the MCEN to better serve the operational forward deployed forces by improving seamlessness, reach back, interoperability, and security to the Marines back on base.
“In the past, there were seven commanders in eight regions providing command and control of the MCEN,” said Sapeda. “There were different processes and techniques to providing MCEN support depending on which geographic location you were at. This was problematic and at times confusing for our customers and our workforce.”
NetAct-Res will support MCCOG’s mission by executing Marine Corps DODIN and Marine Corps DCO to enhance freedom of action across warfighting domains, while denying the efforts of adversaries to degrade or disrupt this advantage through cyberspace.
“With the ever-increasing reliance on technologies, such as cell phones and computers in our daily and work lives, it is imperative to deny our enemies the use of digital attacks on those networks and in cyberspace,” said Sapeda. “It is inherent to our nature as Marines to seize the initiative.”
Story by Sgt. Andy Martinez
Marine Forces Reserve