REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – During a small ceremony, an Army astronaut receives one of the rarest military uniform devices.
Col. Andrew R. “Drew” Morgan received the Army astronaut device from Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commanding general of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, during a May 5 ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
“Army astronauts are more than astronauts,” Karbler said. “They represent the Army, serving as ambassadors to the public. NASA has long recognized the skills and qualities of military astronauts.
“Col. Morgan represents the ‘human element’ of Army space capabilities, like so many SMDC Soldiers around the world,” Karbler added.
Morgan, along with Army astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain are the only active duty Soldiers who have been presented the device, considered by many to be one of the rarest qualification device a Soldier can receive.
“It’s another reminder of the Army's role in space,” Morgan said. “A human presence in Earth orbit is only a small part of Army Space capabilities, and the Army NASA Detachment is proud to play a small part in representing Soldiers on the ultimate high ground, around the globe and orbiting above it.”
Morgan became eligible for the device following his 272-day mission to the International Space Station as a flight engineer for NASA Expeditions 60, 61 and 62 from July 20, 2019, to April 17, 2020. During his time in space, the crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.
Morgan’s flight spanned a total of 4,352 Earth orbits and a journey of 115.3 million miles, and he conducted seven spacewalks, totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes.
Along with the pinning ceremony, Morgan returned a World War II medical brassard the museum loaned him to fly aboard the ISS. Besides the historic relic, he formally donating two of his NASA flight suits.
“First, the feeling and impression I received during the pinning itself is, it’s been a long wait,” Morgan said. “I landed in April 2020 when the pandemic was in its early days. Lt. Gen. Karbler would gladly have pinned this on me many months ago, but we’ve waited until conditions were right for a smaller ceremony and it was safe to return the artifact to the National Army Museum. And then secondly, the setting. I am a huge fan of the Army and military museums in general, so to do it in our new flagship museum, what a tremendous experience to do it in a landmark dedicated to history of the American Soldier.”
Morgan is a 1998 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2002. Prior to his selection as an astronaut candidate, Morgan served in elite special operations units worldwide.
He was selected in June 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class and completed astronaut candidate training in July 2015.
Morgan said that anyone who may want to become an astronaut should follow his career passions and focus on teamwork.
“For Soldiers this means being outstanding technically, tactically and professionally,” Morgan said. “It’s hard to predict if you will become an astronaut. “The odds are daunting, but following this simple advice will certainly lead to a fulfilling career wherever your path leads.”
Army regulation 600-8-22 authorizes award of the device by the chief of staff of the U.S. Army to personnel who complete a minimum of one operational mission in space. “Space” is considered 50 miles above the earth. It is affixed to the appropriate Army Aviator Badge, Flight Surgeon Badge or Aviation Badge awarded to the astronaut.
Morgan is one of three active duty Army astronauts, which includes McClain and Lt. Col. Frank Rubio, and is the commander of USASMDC’s NASA Detachment.
“It’s a rare award for a rare privilege,” Morgan said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just a tiny emblem stuck on a uniform. What it really represents is a unique aspect of the Army – limitless opportunities for our Soldiers to serve around the globe or above it. I’m proud to be one of them.”
The National Army Museum is temporarily closed as a public health precaution. Visit the Museum’s website, www.theNMUSA.org for updates and more information.