By Maj. Douglas Hickey, 14th Force Support Squadron
/ Published December 21, 2018
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- It is not every day we get the opportunity to work with and learn from an employee whose career has spanned more than 50 years (29 years military service and 24 years civil service).
The 14th Force Support Squadron at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, has been the beneficiary for 23 of those years with Mark Horning as part of the team and leading from the front in various capacities within the Airman & Family Readiness Center. As Horning prepares for his upcoming retirement on Dec. 31, 2018, it seemed only fitting to share a little more of the story about this humble servant.
Horning was born in Council, Idaho, and was raised on his family’s farm in Midvale, Idaho, where he worked as a ranch-hand throughout his high school years. This experience and upbringing established a strong work ethic that would serve him well throughout his career(s). Upon graduation from Midvale High School in 1964, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. This decision was not initially supported by his parents, but they eventually came around and realized that it would be better to enlist on his own terms rather than be drafted, noting also that military service provided job specific training and the opportunity for free college education.
Military life began when he attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, and was subsequently assigned to Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, California, as an operational communications field wireman.
Soon after arriving, Horning was deployed by ship with the 2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion to Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam, where he remained for 15 months (August 1965-November 1966). After a short stint back in the continental U.S., he was deployed yet again … this time for 17 months to Dong Ha, Republic of Vietnam (February 1968-July 1969).
With his career continuing to progress, Horning was selected for assignment to Parris Island, South Carolina. He spent eight years at this location, serving as senior drill instructor, senior academic instructor and battalion sergeant major. While at Parris Island, he was lucky enough to meet his wife, Eleanor “Jean” Horning, and they were married in March 1981. Jean has been the rock in Horning’s life over the last 37 years and has been by his side as he was promoted to sergeant major in 1988 (top 1 percent of United States Marines), she was there as he transitioned from military to civil service, and she is by him as he retires from service altogether.
Prior to his retirement from the Marine Corps in August 1993, Sgt. Maj. Horning completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of South Carolina and also served one last combat tour, deploying in support of Operation Desert Storm. The highlight of this successful tour was returning the entire unit home with zero casualties. He surely closed out his Marine Corps career strong and postured himself for success as he prepared for the transition to civil service, looking to lead others once again in a different capacity.
Horning’s civil service career began in April 1994 when he received a term assignment as Transition Assistance Program Manager at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, the base was on the Base Realignment and Closure list and he had to move on when the base did finally close.
He was immediately hired in November 1995 as Relocation Assistance Program Specialist in the Airman & Family Readiness Center at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.
To his credit, Horning has directly worked nearly every program the A&FRC has to offer and continued to progress professionally, much like he did with the Marine Corps. He closes out his civilian career in the top seat of the A&FRC, as Flight Chief.
As a servant leader, Horning continued to merge the concepts of leadership and teamwork that he learned on day one of Marine Corps boot camp into the daily grind of achieving the mission throughout his career … proving that things do, in fact, come full-circle.
As flight chief, Horning has led a stellar team in promoting, educating and facilitating readiness and resiliency for Airmen and their families. This operation serves a one-stop shop in connecting Airmen, families, civilians and retirees to the resources they need.
Programs and services that are frequently provided include: family readiness, family and work life services, employment services, transition assistance program, relocation assistance, personnel financial management, Air Force aid, exceptional family member program-family support and casualty assistance.
Throughout his 23 years at Columbus AFB, there have been many highlights, however, I’d like to list just a few that were not necessarily the norm for someone in his position. Horning was intimately involved with establishing the Golden Triangle Employment Exposition into the third largest in the state of Mississippi.
For about eight months over the last year, Horning was also dual-hatted and tackled the responsibilities inherent with the position of Child & Youth Services Flight Chief, successfully leading the Child Development Center and Youth Center teams in preparing for the annual Air Force Unannounced Inspection and Department of Defense Audit.
This was no small task and did not go unnoticed as the Child Development Center as achieved the gold standard of child care, earning the 5-year National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation.
In closing, and on behalf of the men and women of Team Blaze at Columbus Air Force Base, it has been an honor to serve alongside such a humble leader who has successfully managed two full careers.
Thank you Mark and Jean Horning for your dedicated service to both the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force from 1964 to 2018.
You have truly earned the title of Marine and we wish you both the best of luck in retirement.