FORT CARSON, Colo. - As a battalion executive officer in a signal unit, Capt. Ryan Hornung’s most difficult challenge of late has been working through the pending transition of some personnel and SATCOM mission from the 53rd Signal Battalion to the Space Force and its operations within the current pandemic.
Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Hornung, age 30, was raised by an engineer (his father, Joseph) and a special education teacher (his mother, Sharon). He commissioned as a second lieutenant from Loyola University Maryland in 2014. He branched signal (25 Alpha) and was first stationed at the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion (ESB), at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. From there he went to the Signal Captains Career Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia, then to 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. Recently he was working as the S6 (plans and operations) officer at the Satellite Operations (SATOPS) Brigade before his current assignment at the 53rd Signal Battalion.
I had the privilege to speak to Hornung recently to grasp some insight into another captain’s life within SMDC. The more we know about our own personnel, the better we are able to foster solid, working relationships to further accomplish our mission as a people first team of empowered, innovative, ready, and resilient professionals.
Q: How hard has it been jumping through all the hoops associated with COVID?
A: It’s been an ongoing challenge. As an example – different countries manage the virus differently. Japan, Germany and even Hawaii are taking measures in separate directions. It’s been a real undertaking trying to make sure we are staying within regulations with those host nation and state agreements. Japan for instance - well before the Omicron variant took off - has a 14-day quarantine period, so we had to plan accordingly on bringing in Soldiers, their Families, and DA civilians from overseas. It’s been a balancing act between operational requirements and taking care of Soldiers and Families.
As this is a 24/7, 365 mission, the ability to forecast issues and plan ahead has led to our success. Coordinating between all of the various agencies to facilitate a proper quarantine or Restriction of Movement (ROM) has been quite the operation. Just like the United States, our overseas partners have been very proactive when approaching the virus and their guidance changes frequently, so properly maintaining operations has been a huge line of effort for us.
Q: What other challenges are you working through?
A: Fiscal constraints. The continuous task of maintaining operations in a fiscally constrained environment has taught me a lot about how we process funding. While challenging, it’s been a fulfilling experience.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A: Solving problems and seeing the fruits of your labor. Being in staff, especially with most of our subordinate counterparts spread all over the world, sometimes it’s hard to see the impact you are having. Solving a problem or making a decision that makes the workplace better for our Soldiers or Families, is pretty rewarding. Having the ability to facilitate change and improvement across the formation is what brings me into work every day.
Q: What is best thing about working in SMDC?
A: The global reach of space. I have been a Signal Officer for my entire career, and have been a significant user of space in that time. However, I never understood the complexity of it, so to see “behind the curtain” of Army Space - the intricacy of it - it’s fascinating. I have learned so much here, that I wished I knew as a tactical guy. It’s been rewarding to see how we deliver military satellite communications around the world.
Q: A lot of Soldiers and civilians within the command always touch on the professionalism within the organization. Would you like to comment on this?
A: Absolutely! A conventional unit has a wide range of talent and experience across its formation, and that’s one of its strengths. Coming to a strategic-level command like this, most of the team has advanced knowledge and education, making SMDC a very high-functioning and professional environment. It’s awesome to ask a question, and not only get your answer, but also the context, history, and impact of prior decisions relating to that question. Continuity is the biggest challenge for a lot of organizations and thankfully, due to our excellent people, we don’t have that problem.
Q: You volunteered to go to SATOPS Brigade a couple years back. What is it about Army Space that appeals to you?
A: I find the overall environment of space fascinating. How to operate in a vacuum. How you send a radio wave thousands of miles into space to a satellite, have it process that information, and beam it back. The intricacies of how that works is fascinating to me. I’ve always liked space, and the ability to marry my personal interests with my professional goals is a dream come true. Space is a pioneering part of the military; it’s ever-changing, and there’s always some new, fun, and exciting challenge to overcome.
Q: What is the one thing you would like to see get done within the command during your time in?
A: I would love to make Army Space more accessible to the wider conventional Army. I’ve learned a ton through this Command, and that has made me a more effective Signal Officer. If I were to implement major change, it would be to see the capabilities and training of military space made more readily available to the rest of the military.
Q: What do you see yourself doing long-term? Are you going to stick around in the space industry once you get out of the Army?
A: Whether it’s service to SMDC or another government entity, space is definitely what I want to do for the rest of my career. I love being in Army Space. I hope the Command can continue its excellence, as well as grow the Space Force. Space Operations has huge potential in our military, and I’m excited to see where the future takes us.
Hornung is married to his wife Gabrielle. They have two dogs and like to hike, cook and explore Colorado.