Juggling a professional career with the demands that come with being the Commanding Officer of Adelaide Universities Regiment as an Army Reservist, it is easy to wonder where Ilona Horan gets her energy from.
But as Director, Projects, Infrastructure and Investment at Defence SA, Ms Horan says it is her passion for being able to help people that gets her out of bed every day.
“I was in the Australian Regular Army for 18 years before I transferred to Army Reserves, and for me it was the Army’s ability to make a difference and help people that attracted me,” Ms Horan said.
“I was initially interested in joining the Air Force but after being turned down I was appointed as a staff cadet in the Army and attended the Royal Military College. I am so glad that I ended up in the Army due to the people I have met and experiences I have had.
“I love my Army career because no matter what role I have had, I could always see the positive impacts we could make to people’s lives and that was, and is, very special.”
That is not to say there haven’t been challenges but Ms Horan said when she reflects on her Army career it is the people that made, and continue to make it, so rewarding.
“To simplify my career, I could say that I developed excellent project management skills and the need to punctual, but really, it was the people and the tangible sense of purpose that is really the take away from my Army career – a career I am still enjoying as an active Reservist.,” she said.
“The Army can enforce punctuality and attention to detail as well as numerous other skills that Defence members take for granted, but it also teaches you the skills to assess complicated situations, multitask and make decisions quickly. I do think you need to be a certain kind of person who thrives off a high-paced, every changing environment as well.”
As an Army Reservist Ms Horan said she still feels the same passion and purpose for helping others.
“My roles in the Reserves have all been focused on helping people develop into leaders and prepare them for their careers in the Army.
“It is so rewarding to help support and foster that sense of purpose that I found when I joined with our leaders of today and tomorrow. My current role as a Commanding Officer means I am responsible for a lot of people which is a huge responsibility but one that I am grateful for.
“I am constantly learning and being pushed out of my comfort zone and I have only been in the role for a few months, but it is immensely rewarding.”
In her professional life at Defence SA, Ms Horan said she uses her passion for helping others in a different way supporting defence and space organisations to establish or increase their presence in South Australia.
“When I was in the Regular Army and now as a reservist, I am part of the benefactors of our defence industry, and to be able to help support that work in my professional life is wonderful,” she said.
“I am able to work with the companies who want to set up a presence in South Australia to further developments in the defence and space sectors and that is really exciting and helps the South Australian economy.
“Knowing that I am just a little part of the endless future possibilities in the sectors is an incredible feeling.”
Ms Horan is also responsible for the Defence and Space Landing Pad at Lot Fourteen, which serves to attract and assist international companies to establish operations in South Australia.
Ms Horan is a mum to three boys and in her spare time is also the Deputy Presiding Member of the South Australian Veteran’s Health Advisory Council and a passionate advocate in the community on matters relating to veterans in South Australia.
“If there was one thing, I wished people in our community knew about veterans and people who serve is that we are incredibly passionate people who are able to manage complex situations in a calm manner and we want to help others.
“Having someone with military service in your team – in the workplace or in a volunteer organisation, is always advantageous.”
Ms Horan’s story is part of an ongoing story telling series by Veterans SA. To read more stories of how those with military experience living in South Australia are contributing to our community click here.