By Ben Semmes
CAMP PARKS - Capt. Joe Salazar's may never have guessed that the
skills he learned tinkering with computers when he was younger would
prove useful in the Army.
But Salazar, 34, who works as a systems administrator for Lockheed
Martin in Sunnyvale, and a number of other high-tech workers are
utilizing their computer skills in a special unit of the Army Reserve
based at Camp Parks in Dublin.
A member of the Army Reserve Information Operations Command's western
operations center, along with about 60 other soldiers, Salazar, was
busy last week fighting off viruses and other mock cyber-threats as
part of the unit's second annual drill.
Comprised of 300 full- and part-time soldiers nationwide, the unit was
created in 2001 to provide defensive tech-support to the U.S. Army to
protect vital computer systems from enemy hackers. The soldiers
working in the unit have brought their tech skills developed in
Silicon Valley to literally the front lines of digital warfare.
Although Salazar earned a degree in legal studies from the University
of California, Berkeley, he said it was his computer hobby that led to
a job at Lockheed and ultimately to his position in the Army Reserve,
which he joined in 1991.
"(Currently) I'm rebuilding a laptop that was hit by a vulnerability,"
Salazar said, describing one of his many responsibilities during last
week's four-day drill.
The exercise was also a nationwide competition between all five
Information Operations Commands - located at Camp Parks,
Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas and Pennsylvania - to see what team
acted most effectively in keeping critical network services up and
During the exercise, Army personnel located in Maryland acted as
hackers, attempting to infiltrate the network and cause havoc across
the system. It was Salazar's job to fix the problem once other
soldiers identified it. "What scan are we being hit by here?" Salazar
yelled to Chief Warrant
Officer Tom Millar, another reservist in the unit who works as an
information technology specialist at Santa Clara University. "The
stuff I can do at work is more restricted than what I can do as a
reservist," Salazar said.
As a reservist, Salazar must work at least one weekend a month in
addition to the required two-weeks a year and he said this is not a
problem with his employer.
Fred Conley, Salazar's boss and head of the management information
systems department at Lockheed, said the company holds the vast
majority of its contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense and
understands the responsibilities of men and women in uniform.
"We as a company are supportive of all our (military people)," he
said. "We will keep their job open as long as they are actively
deployed. As for the more normal use of reservists, as policy we allow
them to take three weeks with pay."
Salazar's fellow soldiers in the Information Operations Command are
employed by Microsoft, Dell, Cisco Systems, Symantec and Mitre among
other companies, said unit commander Lt. Col. Darryl Hensley.
The soldiers in the Camp Parks unit are clearly a source of pride for
Hensley and he said he's hoping for a repeat of last year's
performance when they won the first national competition.
"The laptop is our rucksack," Hensley said. "I don't want to say that
the laptop is our weapon because (our operations are) all defensive."
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