175th Wing welcomes new cyber group commander
By Maj. Benjamin Hughes
MIDDLE RIVER, Md. — The 175th Cyberspace Operations Group bid farewell to its out-going commander and welcomed its incoming commander during a change of command ceremony at Martin State Air National Guard Base, August 12, 2023.
Brig. Gen. Reid Novotny passed the guidon to Col. Richard Hunt, 175th Wing commander, who then presented it to Col. Jason Barrass as part of the symbolic military ceremony held at the operations auditorium. Hunt presided over the time-honored tradition of the passing of the colors, signifying the relinquishment of command and the assumption of the duties and responsibilities that come with command.
“It is about the people,” said Novotny, who is currently special assistant to the director of the Air National Guard for U.S. Cyber Command J5, after being presented the Meritorious Service Medal for his command time. “I did not do a singular thing in that award presentation. It was all of you [the cyber Airmen] who did everything, and you know it.”
The 175th COG, which is the U.S. Air Force’s only full-spectrum cyber operation group, has 350 Airmen from five squadrons located here and at Fort Meade, Maryland. The offensive and defensive cyber capabilities along with enviable civilian skill sets acquired at other government agencies and in the private sector make the 175th COG one of a kind.
“I guarantee you, there’s more actual talent in this group than we have anywhere in the Air Force, and it shows. It’s recognized at USCYBERCOM, and they understand it’s not by accident,” said Barrass, who was previously the deputy group commander of the 175th COG. “Our location, and the people that we bring into this organization who like coming here for this mission, while also working at Amazon and Google and Microsoft; that is unique.”
The 175th COG is comprised of two offensive- and one defensive-oriented Cyber Operations Squadrons, a Cyber Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Squadron, and an Operations Support Squadron. These units conduct offensive cyber operations in support of USCYBERCOM and intelligence collection across the cyberspace domain while also providing a capability to defend Air Force networks and deny malicious nation-state actors the opportunity to carry out successful cyber attacks.
Hunt lauded Novotny’s ability to make connections with political and military leaders to help them understand the 175th COG’s unique talent, which directly contributed to the success of the wing.
“You continued to tell the story of the amazing work of our Airmen do day in and day out through all the mission sets across our organization all while supporting all the mobilizations,” said Hunt. “You ensured that everybody understood the value of our capability and how we can assist help solving problems. They see that they can’t execute these mission sets, without the capability that this organization brings.”
In addition to the federal mission of regularly supporting USCYBERCOM’s National Mission Force in defending the nation in cyberspace against foreign malicious cyber actors, Airmen of the 175th COG support cyber missions within the state as requested. Novotny thinks Barrass is well-prepared for his new assignment due to his organizational, program management, and team building skills.
“I know you well, and I appreciate what you bring to the table, your leadership style. You are the right leader at the right time for this organization,” said Novotny. “And the only thing I want for you and the rest of the group, is to do more and better than what I did.”
Barrass said he “couldn’t be luckier” to have “amazing” leadership at all the cyber squadrons and at the Wing.
“I appreciate this opportunity,” said Barrass. “I appreciate the trust you’ve given me to do this job and I promise to do my best every day.”