Class of ’24: Working The Cyber Side of The Space Force

April 18, 2024 By Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu

Mitchell Hong is going into the Space Force, though he will spend his time in cyberspace rather than outer space.

A University of Virginia Air Force ROTC cadet, Hong is a computer science major who will join the Space Force after he is commissioned and graduates. Hong made his decision while a second-year student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. 

“It’s a new field and I know that they are truly on the cutting-edge side of the military, experimenting with satellites and communication systems,” Hong said. “I figured this was exactly what I wanted to do, and this lines up perfectly with what I am studying.”

Hong is a keyboard guy, not someone who wants to be an astronaut.

“My dream is to learn how to be a good cyberman and defend our satellite systems and all our mission-critical systems,” Hong said. “My friend is actually interested in becoming an astronaut, so he went the whole pilot route.”

Though relatively new, Hong sees Space Force as an indispensable element of modern military operations.

“The United States military relies heavily on our resources in space,” he said. “We are blind without our satellites. And it’s not just our satellites. We have to consider what other countries are trying to do in space. Space is the next domain and like every other domain, whether that’s land, sea or air, Space Force’s mission is to secure our interests.”

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“Being a good leader, to me, is making sure that people around you are happy and that they have the resources they need to accomplish the job.”

Hong does not yet know his Space Force assignment, but he thinks he will either be involved in cyberdefense, guarding U.S. assets, or cyberattack, probing and challenging the defenses of the country’s adversaries.

“There are many levels to it and I’m not entirely sure on what I’ll be working,” he said, “They’re very secretive about this. If I am truly good at what I do, nobody will know about it.”

His Space Force experience will assist him in doing future cyberdefense work, either in the private sector or elsewhere in government.

Whatever future opens for him, Hong, who has served as vice wing commander of the ROTC detachment, will rely on leadership skills gained during his time at UVA. He said the military has trained him to be a leader and a more tactical person.

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“Leadership is accomplishing the mission,” Hong said. “Being a good leader, to me, is making sure that people around you are happy and that they have the resources they need to accomplish the job.”

He said leaders should know the people working under them. Introverted but not shy, Hong is mission-oriented and prefers to stay in the background.

“I don’t need to be in the strobe lights with all the direct attention on me,” he said. “But I really do love helping out the people around me and making sure the mission gets done. I start out by making sure that everything’s running smoothly and that you have what you need to so you can do better.”

In addition to leadership experience, Hong said ROTC has taught him things he will carry into the future.

“You learn just how much you don’t know,” he said. “Throughout the program, I just keep learning more and more about who I am, how I can influence people and what my strengths are, my weaknesses. That’s the best part of this.”

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications