APUS Alumni Stories: Developing Leaders and Probing Space

Author: Melanie Conner
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Start a degree program at American Public University.

By Melanie Conner, APUS Alumni Affairs Liaison and Leonard Momeny, AMU Graduate

Leonard Momeny completed a Master of Science in Space Studies at AMU in 2014. He was drawn to AMU’s space studies program, because he saw that the program had instructors who were former astronauts.

Leonard began the program hoping to become a better person and Army aviator. In addition, he had always had an interest in becoming an astronaut.

Leonard Momeny visitor
Leonard Momeny

Leonard says that the Master of Science in Space Studies was an incredible experience, and he certainly grew as an academic. During the process, Leonard was able to refine his math skills and become a far more objective and convincing writer. He also enriched his current role as a UH-60M Instructor Pilot by taking what he had learned at AMU and applying it to his duties as an Army aviator and instructor.

He is an active-duty Army Warrant Officer and his primary military occupational specialty is UH-60M (Black Hawk helicopter) Instructor Pilot. Leonard grew up enamored with the idea of flight, because his father served in the military in both Army Aviation and Army Special Forces. Leonard saw his father fly the AH-1 Cobra and became obsessed with his father’s adventures.

As he grew older, Leonard wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and see what life was like through his dad’s eyes, which is why he chose to enlist in the Army. Now, Leonard has served for almost 20 years in the military.

Prior to becoming an Army aviator, Leonard spent the first four years of his military career as an infantryman with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Leonard was jumping out of airplanes before he began flying an aircraft.

Leonard’s current role as an aviator does not involve flying helicopters. Instead, he serves as a lead writer, creating doctrine and other publications for use by other Army aviators. For instance, Leonard and co-author Tyler Hervey recently had an article published in Aviation Digest, “The Army, NASA, and their Shared DNA in Space Exploration,” which chronicled the shared history between the Army and NASA.

Dr. Brian Keating, Professor of Physics at UC San Diego and author of “Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor” provided a supportive review of the article on Twitter. He called it a “fascinating piece on the astounding interconnectedness of the Army and NASA” and “highly logical” in tribute to another Leonard.  It was Leonard’s first published paper on space and a great first step.

Leonard and Tyler have continued to publish informative papers and articles in order to better inform fellow aviation soldiers on the history and importance of the space domain. Additionally, Leonard regularly provides informational briefs. In this role, he is able to do what he loves doing best: leading and developing future leaders.

We connected with Leonard to learn more about his aviation career and his continuing education.

How did you prepare to enter the aviation field?

That’s really the amazing thing about the military; you really don’t need to prepare to enter service, but instead the service prepares you for the field you hope to serve in. I suppose if you hope to serve in aviation, then you should have a decent understanding of physical science and basic mathematics. If you have that sort of foundation and a deep drive to fly, then aviation is for you.

Has the knowledge you acquired for your master’s degree in space studies assisted you in the field?

The material covered during the master’s program definitely helped me develop a far deeper understanding of aerospace in general. The graduate courses in aerodynamics, aircraft propulsion, and aircraft performance, design, and evaluation made me a more complete aviator and instructor pilot.

While I was taking the courses for my master’s program, I was also teaching the instructor pilot course as a graduate instructor. My AMU classes that focused on aerodynamics and aircraft performance, design, and evaluation fed straight into the courses I taught. For instance, I was able to teach aerodynamics at an even higher level because of the nuanced training available to AMU and APU students.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in your role?

The biggest challenge typically faced by aviators is just staying up to date with changes in technology and software development.

My challenge as an aviation professional is to help young aviators keep up with those changes to remain relevant, effective, and able to carry the profession into the future. To help them keep up with changes, I write and provide informational briefs and lectures.

The influence of the military publications has a direct influence on the young officers in school and at their units. Leading aviators through change is a challenge, but it’s very rewarding.

What advice do you have to give to people seeking a career in your field? 

Aviation is a wonderful field to explore, because there are many careers in aerospace that fall into various specializations. These careers include maintenance, test and evaluation, management, engineering and piloting. While you do not have to join the military to get into aviation, I would say that the service offers one of the fastest routes to a career in aerospace.

Tell us about your experience with the NASA Astronaut Selection program.

With my experience as a senior Army aviator coupled with my degree from AMU, I was finally qualified to apply for the NASA Astronaut Selection program. On March 31, 2016, I received one of the greatest emails of my life. It said the following:

“This email is to notify you that your application was forwarded to the NASA Astronaut Selection Office by the Army NASA Detachment. Please reference the astronaut candidate selection timeline for the remaining events in the 2017 selection process.”

By passing my service specific screening board, I had made it past one of the hurdles in the astronaut application process. Unbeknownst to me at the time, over 18,000 people had submitted their application during that year, and I was ultimately not accepted.

If you look at the class of 2017 and those who were selected, it was an incredible group. While I wasn’t selected as part of the NASA Astronaut Selection program, my space education was highly prized in the United States Army. I was awarded the additional skill identifier of 3Y, indicating space education. That alone has given me the confidence to explore civilian opportunities within space following my military career.

Why did you decide to pursue a Doctorate of Education in Christian Leadership?

As a career Army Warrant Officer, I have to say that one of the most important things to me has been the study and practice of meaningful leadership, which is leadership that builds and develops others to be better people.

With any luck, I hope that a Doctorate of Education in Christian Leadership can assist me in achieving my dream to one day be a professor. Like I said before, I love learning and teaching others, and a job as a professor would be ideal after the military.

A critical step toward a career in academia was recently achieved when I had an academic paper published with the Christian Education Journal. In that paper, co-author Michael Gourgues and I propose a new communication process theory in support of transformational leadership.

It’s currently the most read/downloaded paper the Journal has hosted in the past two years and has only been out since February. Its title is “Communication that Develops: Clarity of Process on Transformational Leadership through Study of Effective Communication of Emotional Intelligence.” Any students of business, leadership, or even religion currently attending the university should search for it through the APUS Library.

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

This is not an easy question. There are many things that I’ve done that so many people would include as a greatest accomplishment…from completing school to achieving higher rank in the military, but that would not be my greatest accomplishment.

Leonard Momeny family
Leonard Momeny and his family. Image courtesy of Leanna Maddox at Maddox & Company Photography.

My greatest accomplishment is that through everything — both college and my professional life — I am a father to three beautiful children and a husband to an incredible wife of 15 years. The fact that my family and I continue to thrive in a productive and loving way is the most important thing in my life and my single greatest accomplishment. To be perfectly honest, I would have to question whether it’s my accomplishment more so than God’s blessing on our lives.

Next to family, I would have to say that if I’ve been able to help or positively influence individuals that have entered into my sphere of influence as a leader, then that would be my greatest accomplishment in my career.

Leonard is a member of Students for the Exploration and Development for Space (SEDS), which is an organization to empower members to make an impact in space exploration. It provides opportunities to interact, network and learn from leaders in the space industry.

Leonard uses his leadership skills in many volunteer capacities, including coaching youth soccer and youth basketball. He also taught a summer camp program to second through sixth graders, where he instructed the students on space history, basic physics and rocket flight. 

Volunteering can help you gain skills and give back to the community, and at APUS, we offer many volunteer opportunities, including Wreaths Across America. We also offer mentoring opportunities, where you can act as a mentor or a mentee to share your industry-related skills with peers and connect with fellow alumni to learn more about their experiences in the space studies program.

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APUS Alumni Stories: Developing Leaders and Probing Space

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