How chaplains support our cyber domain operatives

19/10/2021
How chaplains support our cyber domain operatives

As part of #CyberAwarenessMonth, chaplains play a critical role supporting the nation’s cyber operatives.

 

In the Information Age, the battlefield has changed. Increasingly, we are operating in what is known as the grey zone, the murky area consisting of everything which isn’t full-on conflict, but isn’t exactly an innocent act either.

Within this sphere, is cyber warfare.

“If you destroy a tank, you’re not just destroying a machine; but there are also people within that machine. With cyber, you may switch out the lights in a target building, but what happens if it also shuts down the equipment in a children’s ward in the same building?” says Padre (Wing Commander) Adrian Dyer.

As a military chaplain an RAF Instructor in the Armed Forces’ Chaplaincy Centre (AFCC) at the Defence Academy, Padre Adrian explained that the moral effects of working in the cyber domain are similar to traditional warfare. And, as with all service personnel, cyber operatives can suffer from the effects of the work they do. It’s a question of coming to terms with one’s actions during sanctioned military operations or something witnessed that transgresses moral beliefs during the line of duty.

With an MA in Moral Injury from Kings College London, Padre Adrian said that it is vital to remember the human element in technological warfare. As an expert in his field, Padre Adrian listened to the experiences of operators of Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS), or drones. Often thousands of miles away from the target, RPAS operators frequently watch a suspect for days at a time from high above, through the drone’s camera, in effect, getting to know the person. “It was tough for some of them to come to terms with it,” Padre Adrian explained.

A chaplain’s role, the padre said, is to care for personnel, preventatively if possible, to hear their experiences and help them to “find acceptance and come to terms with things they have seen and done, by offering reflective listening.”

And this is what the AFCC aims to do. Home to both the Defence Cyber School and the AFCC, the Defence Academy supports our people to develop the skills required to operate and lead in the modern world. Through our innovative training at the Defence Cyber School and the pastoral support offered by the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre, the Defence Academy is optimising professional defence and security education.

Padre Adrian said: “Fundamentally, we try to educate our people to be morally literate and morally and spiritually resilient.”