Deep in the heart of Texas, attackers closed in on banks. They swarmed hospitals. Wearing combat boots and camouflage uniforms, soldiers mounted a defense. But instead of being crouched behind buildings, the troops were hunched over keyboards.

It was in this digital battlefield where Army and Air Force soldiers participated in a training exercise to defend critical infrastructure from crippling cyberattacks, a recognition that the U.S. military is fighting in a new domain.

The Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group conducted the Cyber X-Games 2018 in San Antonio, Texas, bringing together 72 soldiers and contractors for the exercise. The in mid-June games focused on protecting areas like finance, public utilities and health care from attackers.

The goal is to “take real-world cyber-related events and leverage the information from those events into an exercise,” said Lt. Col. Michael Lewis, an officer at the Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group, in a news statement.

The games recognize how cyberwarriors in the military have a broad range of responsibilities. Last year, the Army said that the Cyber X-Games looked at how cyber could be used in special operations missions. Then, they performed a hostage rescue. This year, the exercise focused on protecting critical infrastructure. Participants required knowledge of “supervisory control and data acquisition,” a control system commonly used in public utilities and service sectors.

Working with the control system “is a big problem set in the cyber forum now and the fact that it was addressed at the X-Games to bring awareness is significant,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dana Timmons, who was on the top finishing team.

Justin Lynch is the Associate Editor at Fifth Domain. He has written for the New Yorker, the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, and others. Follow him on Twitter @just1nlynch.

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