WASHINGTON — A U.S. Marine Corps general took command of the Cyber National Mission Force, ushering in a new era of leadership for a military hacking cohort often dispatched to assist foreign governments.

Maj. Gen. Lorna Mahlock succeeded Army Maj. Gen. William Hartman at the helm of the CNMF during a ceremony Jan. 5. Hartman, who led the force since 2019, is taking another post as Cyber Command’s deputy chief.

Mahlock in a statement said she felt humbled to serve alongside “our nation’s elite cyber warriors, competing daily against a threat that is very real, but which few can comprehend, quantify or see.”

The CNMF was established in 2014 and has since deployed more than 55 times to 27 countries — including Ukraine, ahead of Russia’s latest invasion, and Albania, in the wake of Iranian cyberattacks — to identify network weaknesses and unearth malicious software. Its elevation to a subordinate unified command within CYBERCOM in 2022 was recognition of its critical role in stateside election defense and overseas sweeps.

“CNMF has always been the ‘go-to’ force when our nation has a challenge in the cyber domain,” Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, the CYBERCOM and National Security Agency boss, said in a statement. “These joint cyber operators are a powerhouse that punch above their weight against some of the world’s most reckless and determined foreign malicious cyber actors.”

Nakasone presided over the change of command Friday.

Mahlock previously served as the deputy director for combat support at the NSA’s cybersecurity directorate. She was also the first Black woman to serve as a two-star general in the Marine Corps, and was its first female chief information officer and director of command, control, communications and computers.

A prior-enlisted Marine, Mahlock received her commission in 1991. She holds multiple master’s degrees, plus a master’s certificate in information operations from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Marine Corps Times reporter Irene Loewenson contributed to this article.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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