REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command hosted a Change of Command for one of the most unique and out-of-this-world detachments in the U.S. Army.
Army astronaut Col. Anne C. McClain assumed command of the Army NASA Detachment from Army astronaut Col. Andrew R. Morgan during a ceremony at USASMDC headquarters on Redstone Arsenal on April 4.
“We are fortunate to be attached to SMDC headquarters and we are appreciative of the time they each took to celebrate our Change of Command,” McClain said. “The Soldiers, officers and civilians execute their complicated mission day in and day out to the highest standard. It is a critical mission for the Army, and will become even more so in the coming years as our adversaries test our capabilities in new domains. We are in capable hands with the men and women of SMDC ‘Securing the High Ground.’”
She thanked Morgan for setting her up for success as the detachment’s new commander.
“Col. Morgan leads by example,” McClain said. “I have had the privilege of serving with him and watching him lead for seven years through a variety of challenges and opportunities. He has molded the detachment into a tight-knit team that is mission focused, professional, and one which executes the mission to the highest standard. I am fortunate to come into an organization that already upholds such a high standard.”
McClain continued, “The Army Detachment has an outsized impact on the NASA mission and the mission of the astronaut office. The officers serving here directly contribute to daily operations in mission control, test and development for future missions, and the incredibly dynamic mission of ground support to launches and landing.”
SMDC provides direct support through the detachment to the Army officers selected by NASA to serve as astronauts. Ultimately, these Soldiers are Army ambassadors to NASA and the American public.
Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, SMDC commanding general, said McClain is a strong leader and is the right person to lead the Army NASA Detachment.
“It is certainly a different type of command than being an air mission commander in Iraq,” Karbler said. “The SMDC family will continue to take care of the NASA Detachment to ensure your continued success as an astronaut, but more importantly as a leader in SMDC. Drew and Anne, thank you both for the out-sized strategic impact you give to our nation, our Army and SMDC.”
Karbler said Morgan has excelled in leading the detachment and wished him well.
“Drew, I’ve watched your leadership of the detachment; from your engagements with the Association of the U.S. Army and the enlistment of 800 new Soldiers, to your desire to take on garrison command of Kwaj,”
Karbler said. “You sum it up best when you introduce yourself as a Soldier first. We’re glad to keep you in the SMDC family.”
This summer, Morgan takes brigade-level command of U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll, where the SMDC Technical Center’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site is located. He credits Karbler’s support for helping him navigate a system that was not built for Soldiers with an astronauts’ unique career path.
“Lt. Gen. Karbler, from our first contact three-and-a-half years ago on a phone call from space during my nine-month ISS mission, I knew we were going to have a great relationship,” Morgan said. “You’ve been a great commander, the leader everyone hopes to work for, and a champion for your Space Soldiers at NASA. Your genuine engagement with the people you lead and the energy you derive from your interactions is contagious, and something I’ll carry with me. Thank you for your mentorship and leadership.”
To colonel McClain, Morgan commented that “you’re the most competent officer I’ve ever known. I’ve been proud to experience the last decade with you. We’ve supported each other through the highs and lows of our astronaut careers, we’ve bonded as astronaut classmates, and as fellow Soldiers.”
Morgan and McClain were both selected for the 2013 astronaut class. Morgan said this has made their professional relationship unique, which has grown beyond typical work interactions and become an almost sibling-like bond.
“We’re as much family as we are crew mates and coworkers,” Morgan said. “You’ve basically co-led with me in this leadership role the entire time I was in it. We could call it the longest left-seat, right-seat handover in the history of the Army. The detachment is in good order, and I couldn’t be more confident that I’m leaving it in the best hands, on or off the Earth. Keep taking us to the high ground.”
Morgan said his family is cramming a lot into their remaining time in the last weeks before their move to the Marshall Islands.
“My three teenage daughters will move with us to Kwajalein this summer,” Morgan said. “After a decade in Houston, they’re leaving the comfort and familiarity of a community they’ve known for almost as long as they can remember. Recognizing the unique opportunity of living overseas, these young ladies show maturity and bravery beyond their years. I’m incredibly proud of my daughters.”
Morgan met Stacey, his wife of 23 years, when they were both cadets at the U.S. Military Academy and said that she has been his champion supporter through every twist of his career.
“She’s been my best cheerleader and a live-in leadership mentor,” Morgan said. “I’ve made it far further in life with her than I ever could have without her. She’ll be indispensable as my principal adviser in my next command and I’m extremely proud of her.”
The Morgans are all-in,” Morgan added. “We’re deeply grateful to the SMDC family for making us part of it, letting us lead in it and giving us the opportunity to carry it forward to the Indo-Pacific. We thank each and every one of you.”