VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. — When the 614th Air and Space Communications Squadron was re-designated on June 23, 2021 as the 65th Cyberspace Squadron, it did not simply denote a name change. Rather, it signified an expanded mission and new responsibilities beyond repairing and maintaining communications equipment for the Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC) and Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC), to a more aggressive and forward-looking organization that also heavily focuses on cyber defense.

Earlier this month, the 65 CYS commander, Lt. Col. Jason Thompson, who previously held leadership positions at the 616th Operations Center the 83rd Network Operations Squadron, shared his personal experiences finding and weeding out threats on U.S. government networks during a classified briefing open to all CFSCC headquarters and CSpOC personnel. This event was a part of cybersecurity awareness campaign, initially launched at the DoD and Department of the Air Force levels, where it was impressed upon attendees that anyone who uses computers and devices connected to the internet can be a target for cyber criminals at any time.

“The cyber threat is real, constant, and pervasive,” said Thompson. “The adversary only needs to find one weakness, trick one person into opening a malicious email attachment, find a weak password in use, find an unpatched system – and they win. It’s an endless battle, but one that everyone can help fight by paying attention to their training and being suspicious.”

Given the persistent cyber threat, the 65 CYS is very focused on cyber defense. Over a year ago, the squadron incorporated a dozen Airmen and Guardians from the Mission Defense Team of the 30th Space Communications Squadron, who were heavily involved in cyber defense operations for the 2nd Range Operations Center. They ensured that launches taking place from the base were protected from cyber interference. Now, with about 100 total military and civilian personnel, the 65 CYS handles cyber defense operations for CFSCC, CSpOC, the Western Launch and Test Range, and for the Space Domain Awareness mission.

“The 65th is here to help, and if anyone sees something unusual – whether it’s a suspicious email or things just aren’t working properly on their networked system – they should contact us immediately,” added Thompson.    

Being proficient in cyber-defense operations is intensive and at present newcomers to the 65 CYS must dedicate about five months of training beyond their technical school education to achieve peak proficiency at tracking and eliminating cyber threats.

“We are really focused on security training and the possible ways to fix vulnerabilities” said U.S. Space Force Specialist Three Raquel Goins, one of the newcomers to the 65 CYS who is currently going through training. “You can’t truly be secure when it comes to cyber. When it comes to the internet, there is always going to be a way to exploit something and we know that. So, we look at ways to respond to those issues.”

Goins says that there’s both excitement and energy in being a part of this mission for a military branch that is only in its third year of existence.

“I really enjoy being in the Space Force and being part of something new,” added Goins. “We are pioneering this force and I feel I can make a change. In the Space Force, if there is a cyber problem, anything cyber related, they can come to us and we can work on it because we are all qualified. Cyber security is needed everywhere and I take a lot pride knowing I am protecting something valuable against adversaries.”