First Guardians from AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate join Space Force

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – Two Air Force Research Laboratory Company Grade Officers were recently inducted into the U.S. Space Force, the nation’s newest branch of the military. On July 23, Capts. Kenneth Ehrenberg and Cristian Hernández-Rivera became Guardians in the Space Force during a swearing-in ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The presiding official of the ceremony, Division Chief Col. Katherine Todorov, pointed out that the laboratory supports two services now: the Air Force and the Space Force. To emphasize that point, she quoted Col. John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth. “Space is a laboratory, and we go into it to work and learn the new.”

Todorov went on to point out that the inductees may or may not go into space, but the systems they build, the code they write, and the capabilities they create will be certain to go into space.

Ehrenberg and Hernández-Rivera are the first Space Force Guardians to come from AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. After the Air Force patches on their uniforms were exchanged for Space Force patches, both new Guardians were sworn in, taking the same oath they took when entering the Air Force.

Ehrenberg is a program manager at AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation, where he manages a portfolio of small business contracts. He received his officer’s commission at the Air Force Academy in May 2017. In 2019 he earned his graduate degree in aeronautical engineering at Wright-Patterson’s Air Force Institute of Technology.

“I got my master’s from AFIT in aeronautical engineering with focuses on space propulsion and systems, hypersonics, and computational fluid dynamics,” said Ehrenberg. “The space part of that was very interesting for me and will be very useful moving forward for my career in space system acquisitions.”

Ehrenberg’s friend and mentor, John Florio, did the honor of exchanging the service patches on Ehrenberg’s uniform. Florio has been helping Ehrenberg manage the programs he is in charge of at the Center for Rapid Innovation.

Ehrenberg said he will be remaining at his current AFRL position for now, but expects to be moved to a Space Force job sometime in the next year or so. That job or location has not yet been determined.

Hernández-Rivera was an executive officer for AFWERX, where he supported the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate by expanding technology, talent and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capabilities.

Hernández-Rivera received his commission through the AFROTC in June 2017 at the University of Puerto Rico where he earned a Bachelor of Science in aviation science management. He will begin his Space Force career at AFIT, where he will be pursuing a Master of Science in program management.

“I’m humbled for being part of this elite force that will shape the future of space and the way of life of many around the globe,” said Hernández-Rivera. “The Space Force will expand my science and technology perspective, and maximize my potential as a leader in the space acquisitions field.”

Hernández-Rivera’s wife, Joanne Ortiz Merced, did the honors of exchanging his uniform patches.

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Capt. Cristian Hernández-Rivera’s wife, Joanne Ortiz Merced, places his new Space Force insignia on his sleeve. (U.S. Air Force photo/Spencer Deer)

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John Florio reaches for Capt. Kenneth Ehrenberg’s new Space Force service patches. (U.S. Air Force photo/Spencer Deer)