Kansas Air National Guard leader speaks on the importance of cyber security

By Staff Sgt. Joe Thompson, 184th Public Affairs

The Kansas Air National Guard visited Wichita State University students and members of the Wichita cyber security community on Jan. 29.

Brig. Gen. David Weishaar, assistant adjutant general – Air, Kansas National Guard, spoke about the cyber threat responsibilities for the Kansas National Guard. Weishaar was invited to speak as a part of WSU’s Sleepless Nights Speaker Series, a Wichita community series that focuses on cybersecurity.

The 184th Wing, a unit assigned to the Kansas Air National Guard, contains one of the largest cyber-operations organizations in the nation. The Wichita unit and the 190th Air Refueling Wing in Topeka combined makes Kansas host to the largest cyber force in the Air National Guard.

“We have some unique capabilities right here in Wichita that we don’t have anywhere else in the nation,” said Weishaar. “We have the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron and the 127th Cyberspace Operations Squadron. These entities are known as cyber operations versus our IT structure. Then, we have the Network Operations Squadron that runs the network across the Air National Guard.”

Election security is a topic that concerns citizens.

Weishaar addressed the role that the Kansas Air National Guard will have in providing election security as the year progresses. He was optimistic that the cyber and IT professionals in the Kansas Air National Guard will be able to rise to the challenge.

“Recently, the National Guard has been selected as the election support entity,” Weishaar said. “Every state is different, so there is no federal response for election security.”

Election security falls in line with domestic operations.

Domestic operations is a primary mission set that separates the Air National Guard from other military branches. When the Air Guard performs domestic operations, they’re supporting civilian agencies who have called for assistance.

Until recently, domestic operations have been somewhat limited to weather catastrophes.

The Kansas National Guard has capabilities for responding to natural and manmade disasters. These include tornadoes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes. They support civilian authorities during times of disaster to secure and support vital infrastructure services such as electrical power, drainage and clearing emergency routes.

The cyber realm is no different.

 “Response to a cyber-threat will be treated no differently than a tornado,” Weishaar said.

The process of emergency management begins at the city level, then moves to the county and then the state. Once all of these resources are exhausted, the National Guard can be activated to respond.

Weishaar spoke about the 184th Wing’s transition from a flying unit to a cyber and IT unit. The unit’s core mission sets are cyberspace operations, battlefield intelligence, command and control and mission support. Each mission set is reliant on IT professionals.

“We figured out that aircraft mechanics make good IT guys,” said Weishaar. “It’s a whole lot of trouble shooting skill. Aircraft mechanics go down a checklist. They need to be able to duplicate what works.”

He explained how cyber and IT Airmen also use checklists to troubleshoot and fix IT problems, so the processes can be duplicated when they encounter similar challenges in the future. 

“The National Guard, in my opinion is the most versatile Department of Defense force that we have for homeland security,” said Weishaar.