Profiles in Space: Maj. David Maddaford, rounding out a career with SMDC

By Sgt. 1st Class Aaron RognstadFebruary 2, 2022

Profiles in Space: Maj David Maddaford
Maj. David Maddaford, training officer in charge of the 53rd Signal Battalion, Army Satellite Operations Brigade, in his office at 1st Space Brigade, Fort Carson, Colo., Jan. 7, 2022. Maddaford has enjoyed an illustrious almost 25-year career in the Army, and is now looking toward retirement in the next two years. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad/RELESASED) (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Robert Segin) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. – As he quickly approaches 25 years of service to his country, Maj. David Maddaford, training officer in charge of the 53rd Signal Battalion, Army Satellite Operations Brigade, never thought growing up he’d be where he is today.

Hailing from a Hispanic neighborhood on the northeast side of El Paso, Texas, Maddaford grew up less fortunate than most, but relied on his talents as a soccer player to get him off to college on a scholarship out of high school.

After conceiving a child with his then girlfriend at 19 years old though, he quickly realized he was going to need a way to support his new family. That’s when he enlisted in the Army in 1998 and followed in his father’s footsteps as a 25 Sierra - satellite maintainer/operator.

Almost a quarter of a century later, Maddaford is putting in his retirement paperwork, and plans to be out of the service in the next couple years.

I recently took some time to speak to him about his journey of an enlisted to commissioned Soldier that led him to where he is today, his thoughts about SMDC, and where he sees himself down the road.

Q: What are some of the highlights of your 25 years (nine enlisted, 16 commissioned) in the Army?

A: I was on the All-Army Soccer Team early on in my career and we played in the Military World Games in Egypt in 2000 where we played other military’s teams. Getting that opportunity was great to be representing the Army’s best in the sport.

Also, my time spent at MacDill Air Force Base (in Florida) where I supported special operations at the Joint Communications Support Element. That was very interesting and high tempo. I deployed to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Salerno in Afghanistan where we lived in tents near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. It was austere living conditions with no hardened shelters. The Taliban would cross the border and mortar us constantly, then run back into Pakistan, so we spent a lot of time in our gear, as force protection was a top priority.

Q: I see from your biography you have deployed four times - three to Afghanistan and one to Iraq - in your career. If there is one thing you could take away from those tours, what is it?

A: The amount of work and coordination it takes to do the most minute of things. No task on any of the deployments was easy because we were handing off the mission to our local partners, and it got more difficult during the transition as we grew closer and closer to leaving. No longer were we the decision-makers, we were the supporters, which made it very difficult to achieve goals and accomplish the mission. Just the amount of work that goes into operations in a warzone - it’s very consuming, not only of your time, but of your physical and mental abilities. It takes a very resilient person to keep up with the pace.

Q: Your last deployment was to Afghanistan as an Army Space Support Team (ARSST) leader in SMDC. It was the final ARSST before U.S. forces withdrew from the country, so it was historic in a sense. What was that like?

A: It was good to be a part of a unique special team for a covert mission. Being a part of the Afghans livelihood, force protection, and intelligence, was an interesting deployment to round out my time in the Middle East. It was a lot of learning of all the other space capabilities and applying them to the ground forces mission to accomplish a goal, whether that be messaging, force protection, or getting the local population to use messaging to get our message across.

Q: Backing up, why the transfer to SMDC?

A: I was approaching 20 years and I felt like I did as much as I could in signal and I wanted to learn another profession, even though SATCOM is a profession of space, I wanted to learn the rest of the spectrum.

Q: How was that transition?

A: Exciting. For the first time you get to play a larger part of the warfighting function. There are different assets in space like force protection, intelligence, targeting; you get to play a part in search and rescue. It’s a lot more in-depth than SATCOM. All the information and tools I have are enhancers to anything or anyone is doing. We have a very finite set of capabilities that are valuable to the ground commanders.

Q: Backing up even further, besides the obvious reason of higher pay, why the transfer to an officer when you were at an E-7 on the enlisted side?

A: I saw the effect that I had on Soldiers around me as a sergeant first class, and I wanted to broaden that reach, so the quickest way for me to do that was to get my commission. I liked being able to make big decisions, and I like being able to care for people. I wanted to put myself in the best spot I could to impact people’s lives and help them. I grew up a little less fortunate than most people and wasn’t raised in the best environment, so I can relate to Soldiers in the same situation and help and mentor them.

Q: Did you ever fathom being a major in a space command?

A: No. I can remember being a young knucklehead staying up all night and hearing reveille one morning far off as I was near the front gate of Fort Bliss, and thinking to myself, who would ever want to do that? Five thirty wakeup and working out?! And then look where I ended up. How naïve I was as a teenager, then a couple years later there I was waking up before dawn, running around and getting yelled at. But at first I didn’t join for the greater mission or good. I didn’t really understand the big picture. But I quickly accepted and admired the overall mission - safekeeping our nation’s security and doing what we need to do put ourselves in a positive light amongst our allies.

I progressed fast and did well, and it helped me provide for my family. I can relate to the private who has very little and is trying to raise a family, and they have a whole bunch of extra stressors that come with being young with a family to feed, which can be hard with a demanding job in the military.

Q: So a quarter of a century of service. What’s next?

A: I want to stick around in the space sector, and probably will take on a civilian role within the organization. I think there are a lot of opportunities in SMDC for me in the space control world. It’s a great command that values their personnel and invests money into their education. The amount of training I have received since joining SMDC is almost triple the past 15 years in my previous commands. I’ve been to almost all the Army Space fundamental courses, joint electronic warfare, information operations, etc. I’ve learned a lot in my short time in the command.

Maddaford was awarded the Order of St. Dominic – Bronze Medallion, last spring for his commitment as a space officer to SMDC. The award is given to Soldiers within the Army Space Professionals Association who have demonstrated leadership, character, professional excellence, and dedication to their Soldiers and their chosen profession, and who have significantly contributed to making the United States Army and the Space profession more capable and better prepared to execute missions in an ever changing and highly contested operating environment.

Many Soldiers within SMDC consider the award a major accomplishment in one’s career.