Lt. Col. Mike Burns, spokesman for the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, says “banned is a harsh word” but the fact is, paratroopers deploying to the Middle East in the wake of growing hostilities from Iran were told to leave their cellphones, laptops and tablets at home – “anything considered a personal device,” according to Burns.
Around 3,500 soldiers have begun to fly to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait in the last week from Fort Bragg as part of the new Immediate Response Force (IRF), formerly the Global Response Force.
Burns previously told Military.com this is "the first time" Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division has conducted an emergency deployment as part of the new Immediate Response Force -- a new, joint construct the unit began transitioning to last year.
The new IRF is designed to provide the 82nd and other XVIII Airborne Corps units with more enabler units for increased capabilities.
These soldiers will likely join 750 other members of the 82nd already in Kuwait.
Speaking to Army Times, Burns confirmed the decision was intended to both ensure sensitive information pertaining to the deployment and mission wasn’t shared outside official channels, and help prevent any potential cyberattacks against the soldiers.
The latter objective may be the most challenging as Iran’s cyber warfare capabilities increase. While the firepower of Iran’s military ranks only 14th in the world, it has already launched effective cyberattacks around the world, including a 2012 attack on Wall Street banks, a 2017 attack on UK parliamentary email accounts, and a 2018 attack on a U.S. government contractor.
Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commanding general of the division commented that “this is not the normal kind of deployment” but frankly, it would seem “normal” is being redefined in general, General.
Soldiers deploying w/ 82nd AB banned from bringing personal cellphones due to opsec div says. Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commanding general says “ This is not the normal kind of deployment. The decision 100 percent an operational security and force protection measure.”— Barbara Starr (@barbarastarrcnn) January 6, 2020
In June of last year, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a warning about Iran:
Given recent developments, re-upping our statement from the summer.— Chris Krebs (@CISAKrebs) January 3, 2020
Bottom line: time to brush up on Iranian TTPs and pay close attention to your critical systems, particularly ICS. Make sure you’re also watching third party accesses! https://t.co/4G1P0WvjhS
And on January 4 of this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin about the Summary of Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland.
While the Department says it has “no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland. Iran and its partners, such as Hezbollah, have demonstrated the intent and capability to conduct operations in the United States.”
"Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber enabled attacks against a range of U.S.- based targets."
"Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyberattacks against the United States. Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States."
In other words, members of the 82nd Airborne deploying now to the Middle East may not be the only ones who could be the target of Iran’s aggression.
The battlefield is no longer “conventional” and it’s no longer just “over there.”
That’s the new normal.