MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The largest and most complex international live-fire cyber defense exercise in the world has wrapped up in the West University Coliseum. Locked Shields 24 involves 40 countries, 3,000 participants, 193 in West Virginia and is presented by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence.

Vice President for Economic Innovation at West Virginia University Jim Hoyer spoke on behalf of President Gordon Gee during the final press call of the event. Hoyer told the group of international participants this exercise is especially important to the WVU Land Grant Mission of solving problems and improving quality of life.

“Thanks to Cyber Com and JFHQ DODIN (Joint Force Headquarters – Department of Defense Information Network),” Hoyer said. “You have given us the opportunity to be a part of serving the national mission, solving national problems and we greatly appreciate that opportunity.”

Chief of Staff for United States Cyber Command Joint Force Headquarters DODIN, Mr. Bill Walker said it is very rare to participate in an international live-fire exercise and the lessons learned are significant. In many cases lessons learned in Locked Shields are quickly moved into the operational realm following the event.

“Working with our allies and partners bolsters our ability to shape the operational cyber environment to more effectively and decisively conduct integrated deterrence, engage in active competition and to build an enduring advantage,” Walker said.

Toney Stroud, Marshall University Chief Legal Officer, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Corporate Relations said the 75,000 Cyber Security Center for Excellence is in the design phase right now. The building will have up to 13 labs, an academic space, and technology needed to facilitate and teach cyber security. Groundbreaking for the building is set for May 17 and will be attended by WVU President Gordon Gee, Marshall University President Brad Smith, Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Commander of the Joint Force Headquarters- Department of Defense Information Network and Brig. Gen. Heather Blackwell, Director of Cyberspace and Information Dominance, and Chief Information Officer, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

“There will also have a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), so very excited about this,” Stroud said. “This is going to be a transformative building for the state of West Virginia and we’re really appreciate how Governor Justice and the State Legislature has leaned in and invested $45 million.”

Walker said once facilities in Morgantown at WVU, in Huntington at Marshall University they will have the same cyber security tools used by the federal government. Students entering the program will have access to the most sophisticated cyber defense tools, equipment, and input from federal professionals as they learn the skill.

“Students will also be able to use hands-on, real world technologies and facilities that look, smell, and act like the ones at the Department of Defense,” Walker said.

Walker said the decision was made to establish the Cyber Security Center for Excellence after a series of meetings with General Hoyer and West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General Bill Crane. Those meetings resulted in the introduction to WVU President Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Brad Smith who showed them the resources and tolls available to them and negotiations began.

“They opened the doors fully,” Walker said. ” They are willing to create curriculum for our workforce, they are willing to provide different venues to display that curriculum, and work with us on research and engineering projects.”