In November, the Navy’s Cyber Mission Force teams reached a key staffing milestone nearly a year ahead of schedule. The next step? Ensuring those teams sustain a high degree of readiness that allows them to deploy anywhere, anytime.

Keeping cyber teams razor-sharp and ready to act means that the teams are either on-mission or in a simulated training environment essentially every day, said Adm. Michael Gilday, the commander of Fleet Cyber/10th Fleet.

“If they’re not on a real-world mission, whether that’s offense or defense, they’re in a simulator training to maintain their skills at the highest level possible,” Gilday told C4ISRNET in an interview. “But that’s what they joined the Navy to do … they want to be active, and so we have plenty of relevant missions for them to go against.”

By having sailors engaged and at the ready, the Navy uses virtual training environments in different locations, including Hawaii, Georgia and Texas. The virtual environments enable scenarios like simulated networks and adversaries that help teams better understand that network and develop a plan of attack for containing, conducting operations against and removing the adversary from the network.

“It’s cutting edge technology that leverages gaming technology that gives that a high degree of realism. It gives you the effective speed in terms of how an adversary moves across a network and how, let’s say, a defensive team has to find that adversary, and then contain them, and then eradicate them from the network,” Gilday said.

The Navy also is looking toward the next generation of simulated cyber training – a joint-force initiative currently in development with the Army leading the effort. Gilday said his office is working closely with the Army in developing future requirements, configuration and other details for the persistent cyber training environment.

“It’s taking what we have now and making it even better,” Gilday said. “It’s a one team, one fight approach. The cyber teams are a joint force, and so as an example, under my command, I actually have operational command of both Air Force and Army teams. We’re training to the same standard no matter which service that they’re from.”

The Department of Defense fiscal 2018 budget includes $4 million for the Army for PCTE.

PCTE will provide the “ability to test our tools and our capabilities, but also the sustainment training amongst the team that’s really important for us,” Army Cyber Commander Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone told reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in October. “We see that as the piece that we have yet to focus on, which really is the collective training piece — when I say collective training, that’s the training of a squad, mission element, a team — that is so critical for us.”