BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — After nearly closing 12 years ago, the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base took another breath of new life earlier this month.
Two United States senators and state and local guard officials were among those who attended an activation ceremony for the 272nd Cyber Operations Squadron, completing the transformation of the missions at the 60-year-old base.
“Just a handful of years ago we were not sure what we were going to be,” said Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, adjutant general of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “We have been working with the Air National Guard and here we are and it is a good thing.
“Ten years of churn and it’s over,” he told a standing-room crowd of current and former air guard personnel. “We can focus on our mission and have the most relevant mission sets that there are in the United States Air Force. That is a good thing and that is as it should be.”
Vadnais was one of several speakers to praise the work of members of the 110th Attack Wing in their long effort to create the Cyber Operations Squadron.
And he reminded the audience that in 2005 the facility was nearly closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
The Air Guard no longer has airplanes in Battle Creek, but has spent millions of dollars refurbishing or rebuilding base facilities and has added new missions including the Cyber Squadron and the MQ-9 ‘Reaper’ Remotely Piloted Aircraft, which are flown in other parts of the world by pilots in Battle Creek.
The activation of the new cyber squadron will mean 70 full-time positions at the base and that the Battle Creek facility is more than a training center.
“We are more unique than other mission sets,” said Maj. Daniel Guy, commander of the 272nd Cyber Operations Squadron. “We are 24/7 and 365 days a year and that is unique to an Air National Guard Base. Along with the MQ-9s, we are a fully operational guard base. While others are for training, we are about one-third full time.”
The squadron is one of 12 cyber units in the Air National Guard and is designed to help defend the Department of Defense against cyberattacks, Guy told the Battle Creek Enquirer .
“We look at different network sets and any anomalies and try to harden that network and make it more secure,” he said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, spoke to the group at the ceremony.
“Not all battles happen on the ground or in the air. We have new chapters and new missions and once again you are at the front of it. We know the threats that the airmen had in World War II are not the threats of today and they could not dream of the threats we have today.”
And Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, called the activation a “new unit and new chapter in the history of the 110th. The face of warfare will change in dramatic ways in the next 10 years that we may not fully comprehend. Two areas at the forefront are two areas that the 110th is involved in.”
He said he was recently in Afghanistan and saw the MQ-9 fly while talking to the pilot who was in a command center in Battle Creek.
“We are doing it every single day right here in Battle Creek, Michigan,” he said.
Peters said those assigned to the cyber squadron are “making sure the networks are secure and impervious to attacks.”
“Those attacks will increase and the very first volley will be a cyberattack and this unit will be the first line of defense when that attack occurs. You will be on the front line.”
Col. Bryan Teff, base commander, praised the work of the cyber unit, which was an idea nine years ago and created since 2015.
“That usually takes years and years,” he said. “You have done a great job. This is the closure of 10 years of transition for the wing. This is a great day for us.”