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A lasting legacy: DINFOS department head retires after 24 years

By Army Spc. Robert A. Vicens-Rolon Defense Information School

“I taught my last class on Friday,” said Ron Rahorn in his silk broadcaster’s voice. “My wife even came in for it.”
“That was fun,” Heather Ann Rahorn told him. “If I would have known that, I would have come earlier.’”
A broad-shouldered man with a familiar smile, and accustomed to making fast friends, Rahorn began his career at the Defense Information School, which was then at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, as an instructor in the 1990s while serving in the Air Force and moved with the school in 1995 to Fort Meade. After retiring from the Air Force, he continued teaching as a civilian then rose into leadership positions.
Altogether, Rahorn worked for more than 24 years at the school. He was the head of the broadcast operations and maintenance department until his retirement Aug. 30.
With all the years of experience he had in broadcasting, Rahorn felt his No. 1 responsibility was to pass on that body of knowledge and wisdom to both instructors and students. 
“My first resource is people,” Rahorn said. “Train people so they can leave – treat them like you never want them to go.” 
Throughout his career, Rahorn made it a point to always treat everyone he encountered with respect, said longtime colleague Bob Beyer, a radio team lead and instructor at DINFOS. 
Beyer still remembers an experience he had when he first started working at DINFOS, after leaving a job at which he did not have the support of his leaders.
Rahorn, who by then was in a leadership role at the school, helped him resolve a conflict with an instructor who had stepped out of line.
“He listened to what I had to say, and he said, ‘OK, what do you think we should do?’” Beyer said.  “It was like someone had just put healing lotion on my heart because that was the kind of support I had not had from my last supervisor in the last job I had. It was so different and it felt so good that I had the support I needed.” 
Rahorn held himself and others to high standards, but he never micromanaged those he was responsible for, Beyer said. He always trusted his team members with enough space to do their jobs and develop as leaders.
For over a decade as department head, Rahorn knew how to keep his thumb on the pulse of his department.
Part of his weekly routine, up until his retirement, was to drop in on a class and observe his instructors and students, Rahorn said. He also made a point of personally evaluating every new instructor to ensure that he passed on his experience to those who would be teaching the next generation of broadcast specialists. 
Also, no matter how busy his schedule, Rahorn taught at least one class to every group of students who cycled through the broadcast program. 
“I love teaching so much,” he said.  “I want to know what the instructors are going up against every day. Occasionally, we get a bunch of chuckleheads. I wanted to put myself out there so that the instructors could see I’m opening myself up to the same criticisms they are.” 
He has remained a lifelong learner, taking classes at DINFOS to stay up to date with technology and best practices then using his free time to practice.
“I’ve been gone from the field for 24 years,” Rahorn said. “When I left the field, we had tape. What did I do all this time? I took classes here to stay up as the equipment changed. How do I get all the practice? My wife and I work for free for a number of nonprofits in the area, doing videos for them.” 
Heather Ann, to whom he has been married for 45 years, helped him see that it was time to leave DINFOS, he said. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He is scheduled for surgery in January.
“It was time,” Rahorn said. “I still wanted to do things while I am spry.” 
Rahorn and Heather Ann are planning road trips and a cruise and will be visiting Washington and Oregon, the only two states they have not visited together, he said.  They have been to 48 of the 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. 
“And of course, we will be continuing our nonprofit work – that’s how we’re going to stay busy,” Rahorn said. 
Regardless of where Rahorn goes, the impact of his dedication and superior leadership will remain.
“No matter what things change in the classes or the curriculum, those things that he gave as an example are always going to continue in the number of people he shared them with,” Beyer said. “That’s going to carry on into our profession.”