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Army cyber unit envisions training, partnership opportunities at Indiana Urban Training Center

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Story by Steven Stover on 06/08/2017
BUTLERVILLE, Ind. -- The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is a thousand-acre advanced urban training facility with over 200 buildings that the Chief of Staff of the Army saved from being bulldozed in 2005 because the Army needed a place to conduct urban training during the height of the conflict in Iraq.

Today, MUTC is not only used by the military, but by first responders -- police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians -- as well as other federal agencies, such as the Department of Energy. Other countries have sent their people to train here too.

According to Lt. Col John Pitt, commander of the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, battalion commander of the 113th Engineer Battalion, Indiana Army National Guard, "Everything here is in play."

"It's a facility focused on a training environment for live virtual constructive testing, training and evaluation. It is a best value solution," said Pitt. "It's for anyone chartered with 'protecting the homeland, winning the peace.'"

To emphasize his point, Pitt said in addition to hosting the state police, K-9 units, and search and rescue teams, the Navy ran an exercise where a V-22 Osprey, a joint service, multi-mission aircraft with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, lifted off from a carrier in the Atlantic Ocean, flew over several States to MUTC, and then conducted a U.S. Embassy strengthening operation.

The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) sees great potential in conducting training and testing for cyberspace operations at Muscatatuck, complementing ongoing efforts to construct permanent cyber training infrastructures at the Army's Combat Training Centers.

"We're looking for an enterprise capability. Maybe a potential for offensive and defensive (cyber) working together in this environment in the future," said Army Col. John (David) Branch, commander of the 780th MI Brigade. "The Muscatatuck training site is maturing, it's getting some recognition, so we need look and see if that's a future tactical training site for us or an operational training site."

As he escorted the brigade team, Pitt commented that,"One of the things Muscatatuck offers that no other place offers is the complexity and the completeness of electronic environment with infrastructure. There will be plenty of labs out there with a computer going against another computer and a network cable between the two, or maybe a server between the two, but never with the integrated environment and infrastructure where it's a computer going through a network to a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) device with something after that SCADA device or that HMI (Human Machine Interfaces) that takes electronic symbol and turns it into a physical action. There is no other place with the level of complexity and integration between the electromagnetic and physical environment."

One of the urban training areas the brigade toured was an urban zone called the Cybertropolis. The zone consists of a representative city and residential infrastructure outfitted with operational SCADA, cellular, and enterprise networks. Within Cybertropolis, is the Cyber Operations Center, the command and control center for area. The MUTC staff can also provide personnel to fill the following roles: red team (enemy), blue team (friendly), insider threat gray team, supervisory white team, and an assessment team, as well as the necessary work space and computing resources to conduct their roles in testing, training or developmental cyber operations.

The brigade team agrees, there is potential and capabilities not found elsewhere.

"I can remember training at another site where our red cell guys were sitting in a CONEX with a laptop and we had to put in our own WiFi router. It's all here already," said Lt. Col. David Chang, commander, 782nd MI Battalion. "A lot of our concerns for a real-world environment are better emulated here because of the complex environment."

Eventually, Branch wants to bring out his bosses to see an exercise where a tactical unit is supported by one of his cyber teams.

"My higher headquarters wants me to move towards tactical cyber, so I need to determine what is in the realm of possible," said Branch. "CSCB (Cyber Electromagnetic Activities Support to Corps and Below) efforts, working with other elements, working with divisions, corps, this is what we're talking about."

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