Securing the ‘third runway’ in cyberspace

by 86th Communications Squadron

Photo by Craig F Scott /

The 86th Airlift Wing generates and employs air mobility and operates key Air Force power projection platforms.  Less commonly known is that Team Ramstein also operates a power projection platform in cyberspace. You can’t see it, but Ramstein hosts a “third runway” where cyberspace operations occur daily over terrestrial and satellite communications links. This third runway is called the Air Force Information Network, or AFIN.

The Command Cyber Readiness Inspection scheduled for May 22 through 26 is an inspection of the cybersecurity posture of Team Ramstein’s segment of the AFIN led by the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA. The CCRI will measure our technical and operational compliance against cybersecurity and computer network defense policies.  It is the Cyber Superbowl, and will validate our current cybersecurity posture and inform us how we can become even more secure.

While the 86th Com-munications Squadron takes a leading role in authorizing administrators, operating and maintaining base infrastructure, and supporting network users on Ramstein and in the KMC, the 86 AW is not the only unit inspected under the CCRI. The KMC is home to 13 full-time communication units, including the Department of Defense Information Network hub for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa as well as numerous organizations with cyberspace support and operations personnel dedicated to operating and maintaining discrete mission-enabling network systems.  Each and every member of Team Ramstein has a role in ensuring our collective success for this important readiness inspection.

There is no doubt that Airmen are the first line of defense when it comes to cybersecurity. Cyber attacks come in many forms… from large government funded efforts to the single insider threat. It is incumbent upon all Airmen to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity.

By exercising the routines below, you are doing your part in keeping the third runway secure.

Log out and restart computers daily. This allows for proper installation of security patches and updates.

Know your unit Cybersecurity Liaison. They are your first focal point for all cybersecurity matters.

Only connect authorized USB devices into government computers. USB devices are a vector for malicious logic and can expose us to intrusion.

Always secure Common Access Cards and network tokens.

Always encrypt email containing FOUO information.

If you have Secret Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) computers, turn them on during the network scan windows for application of security patches and updates.

Never leave an active SIPR machine unattended.

The 86 CS works hard to ensure Ramstein’s network is configured properly and compliant with cybersecurity and computer network defense policies, but it takes effort from every Airman to keep our networks secure. Through our collective efforts we can ensure a positive outcome not only in the upcoming CCRI but as we operate the third runway 365 days a year!