Kwajalein Atoll Welcomes USAG-KA Commander Col. Drew. Morgan
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Republic of the Marshall Islands President David Kabua, left, presents incoming USAG-KA Commander Col. Morgan, right, with a handcrafted Marshallese gift to welcome him to Kwajalein Atoll during the 2023 Change of Command Ceremony on June 28, 2023. (Photo Credit: Jessica Dambruch) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kwajalein Atoll Welcomes USAG-KA Commander Col. Drew. Morgan
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – USAG-KA Commander Col. Drew Morgan, center, returns the garrison colors to Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest miller, right, for safekeeping, as outgoing commander Col. Tom Pugsley, center left, and Installation Management Command-Pacific Director Craig Deatrick look on during the Change of Command Ceremony, June 28, 2023, at the fixed wing hangar on U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll. (Photo Credit: Jessica Dambruch) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kwajalein Atoll Welcomes USAG-KA Commander Col. Drew. Morgan
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kwajalein Boy Scouts present Stacey Morgan, spouse of incoming U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Commander Col. Drew Morgan, with a wut flower crown, a gesture of welcome in the Marshallese cultural tradition, during the USAG-KA Change of Command Ceremony June 28, 2023. (Photo Credit: Jessica Dambruch) VIEW ORIGINAL
Col. Drew Morgan Assumes Command on U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Family members of U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Commander Col. Drew Morgan look on while Morgan slices a celebratory cake with a saber during the 2023 USAG-KA Change of Command Ceremony on June 28, 2023. (Photo Credit: Jessica Dambruch) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kwajalein Atoll Welcomes USAG-KA Commander Col. Drew Morgan
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – As their Kwajalein story begins, the Morgan family commemorates the day with a family photograph. From left: Gabriella, Sophia, USAG-KA Commander Col. Drew Morgan, his spouse Stacey, and Amelia. (U.S. Army photo by Yolanie Korab) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Kwajalein Atoll community welcomed incoming Col. Drew Morgan, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll, and his family during the USAG-KA Change of Command Ceremony on June 28, 2023.

More than 200 special visitors, diplomatic guests, and leaders from the governments of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and United States gathered on June 28 at the fixed wing hangar on U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll for an historic mission milestone: the USAG-KA Change of Command Ceremony.

Standing before a Lakota helicopter and two Fairchild Metroliners, distinguished visitors and special guests from U.S. and RMI delegations shared their reflections and appreciation for the ingenuity and teamwork of one departing friend as they prepared to welcome a new friend and his family to the atoll community.

Much had changed about island life in the span of one Army tour of duty. Outgoing USAG-KA Commander Col. Tom Pugsley, his spouse Shawna, and their children, Max and Elena, arrived on Kwajalein in 2021 and began their tour during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Pugsley had seen the island through quarantine and lockdown to a better time—one in which its first “post-pandemic” garrison commander and his family could enjoy life without the particular stresses of Kwaj and COVID-19 protocols.

Incoming USAG-KA Commander Col. Drew Morgan, his spouse, Stacey, and their daughters, Amelia, Sophia and Gabriella, would enjoy an atoll Pugsley had worked to protect from hardship and disease with numerous partners and teammates across the globe.

Many of those teammates were in attendance at the ceremony—numerous personnel representing the RMI national and Kwajalein Atoll local governments, U.S. Embassy Majuro, Installation Management Command-Pacific and local contract range and base operations support personnel. Special remarks were delivered by RMI President David Kabua, Acting U.S. Embassy Majuro Deputy Chief of Mission Allen Hodges, Chargé d’affaires Henry Hand and Craig Deatrick, director, Installation Management Command-Pacific, Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

Viewers at a distance followed the ceremony through a livestream broadcast, which began with the singing of the RMI and U.S. national anthems by Elaisa Riklon and Allie Snow, respectively, an invocation by Island Memorial Chapel Ch. Brian Conner and a celebratory cake cutting.

The ceremony offered all a moment to observe the longstanding tradition of the peaceful passing of the colors and authority between senior military leaders and to reflect on the past two eventful years in Kwajalein history which had aligned with Pugsley’s command. It also celebrated the continued friendship and partnership of the RMI and U.S. through COVID-19 and moving into the future.

Kwajalein Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts presented the Pugsley and Morgan family members with floral wut crowns and wut marmar in keeping with the Marshallese custom for welcoming visitors.

Next, with the passing of the colors between the senior Army leaders, per Army Regulation 600-20, incoming Col. Drew Morgan assumed command. Pugsley received the colors from USAG-KA Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Miller. They were passed to Deatrick, and next to Morgan, before being returned to Miller for safekeeping.


On Kwajalein, the duties of the garrison commander are numerous and accomplished through teamwork and assistance from RMI, military, civilian and contract personnel. Pugsley’s duties over the years included not only custodianship of the garrison, a strategic Department of Defense asset, and support for U.S. Embassy Majuro, but also stewardship of the health and safety of all atoll residents during the pandemic.

Coupled with mounting infrastructure challenges, his tour was shaped by daunting fiscal decisions as he worked to provide oversight and support to island programs, to continue construction and maintenance projects and mission support, and to support programs benefiting the safety and morale of all residents, in one of the most remote and corrosive environments in the world.


RMI President David Kabua spoke first to guests, especially recognizing members of the Marshallese workforce who support the Reagan Test Site.

“I offer thanks and kommol tata for the invitation to witness and take part in this change of command here at USAG-KA,” Kabua said, also thanking Morgan for meeting his party that morning.

“I am pleased to meet and welcome you again to the Marshall Islands. Col. Morgan, kindly allow me to assure you of my Administration and the government of the Marshall Islands’ commitment to work with you and your team to further strengthen ties of friendship and kinship between us and our two nations. We both know that life is full of challenges as well as solutions, but the best solutions are often achieved by working together—and Col. Morgan, sir, I wish you 'jeramon nom kom.' It’s our native word meaning ‘good luck, everything good, everything blessed going your way,’ in your new assignment.

In appreciation for his commitment Kabua presented Morgan with a handcrafted Marshallese basket as a token of welcome. He bid the Pugsley family a fond farewell and shared his appreciation for how Pugsley had worked to support the wellbeing of the Marshallese people over the years.

“Col. Pugsley, we are sorry that you have to leave us soon, and we appreciate all the services and kindness you have provided to the people of the Marshall Islands—especially those residing on Ebeye and Santo, or in the outer islands,” Kabua said. “We recognize all the work you have done for the benefit of both our countries, the Marshall Islands, and the United States. I will not say goodbye, sir, but I will say see you later because maybe you will be coming back someday. Finally, my personal appreciation to the people of Kwajalein for the continued sacrifice and consideration to strengthen the cause for peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”


“I’m honored to participate in today’s ceremony to bid farewell to a trusted partner and also to welcome a new commander to this most unique and beautiful country,” said U.S. Embassy Majuro Chargé d’affaires Henry Hand.

As was true of Pugsley before him, Morgan’s expertise would be essential in supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific region, Hand said.

“Col. Andrew Morgan, you are taking on a unique role. In addition to being the senior military officer of a major installation critical to our national defense, you’ll also be a diplomat, a community leader, mayor of a small town, and CEO of one of the Republic of the Marshall Islands largest employers. It’s a daunting role—one that Col. Pugsley did incredibly well—but your role is also a symbol of the United States’ unwavering commitment to stand by the Marshall Islands."

"USAG-KA continues to be extensively engaged with a local community, providing support in the areas of health infrastructure, education and employment. Though there may be a change of command every two years, the garrison’s dedication to the people of the Marshall Islands remains unchanged. You’re an invaluable member also of our embassy team, and I look forward to working with you.”

Hand thanked Pugsley for his unwavering mission support and friendship to the Marshallese people.

“Farewells are difficult, especially when it’s a farewell for someone that we’ve worked as closely and as well with as Col. Pugsley,” Hand said. “Your help and support were vital. Your leadership was vital in helping the RMI address the challenges brought on by COVID-19. USAG-KA played a key role in implementing the quarantine helping to protect the people of the Marshall Islands from the spread of the virus. You leave having forged many strong and lasting bonds."

"The U.S embassy will continue to work with our partners in the RMI government, and the leadership of USAG-KA, to ensure that the bonds between our two great nations continue to grow, and that we work together to surmount future challenges. Col. Pugsley, I wish you the best in your next assignment. Col. Morgan, I again extend you a warm welcome on behalf of the embassy and look forward to working with you.”


“If we measured the value of a square mile of land by how much peace, prosperity, and freedom it supports, these six square miles would be some of the most valuable in the world,” said Installation Management Command-Pacific Director Craig Deatrick. “In fact, they are some of the most important in the world—supporting critical U.S. defense capabilities while strengthening relationships with our allies and partners in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.”

The talent, experience and character of Pugsley and Morgan made them well-suited to lead and address the myriad complexities that Kwajalein’s challenging location and mission afford, Deatrick said.

“When we welcomed Col. Pugsley at the Change of Command Ceremony here two years ago, I said that Garrison commanders—and the teams of installation management professionals they lead—have exceedingly important jobs that help to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all who live and work on the installation."

"Col. Pugsley, and the entire garrison team, lived up to that responsibility and met every challenge over the past two years with grace and flexibility."

"During his time as the Commander of U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll, Col. Pugsley elevated the U.S.-Marshall Islands relationship, greatly improved harmony among mission partners and prioritized resources based on requirements, capacity and risk."

"Working in tandem with the Ambassador, Col. Pugsley gained international cooperation through the COVID-19 travel ban, allowing the movement of about 900 U.S. personnel to support U.S. Strategic Command tests, and helping to repatriate Marshallese citizens from the U.S. He was masterful in setting a four-phase, disciplined COVID-19 risk mitigation plan, and then gained host nation favor by demonstrating the safeguards."

"Pugsley gained Department of the Army consideration for increased investment in energy, communications, and construction, which resulted in targeted Congressional appropriations in 2021. Col. Pugsley did an outstanding job of managing this installation through a difficult period while navigating complex resourcing, logistics and personnel challenges. Job well done, Pugs."

"I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank Col. Pugsley’s spouse, Shawna, for her service to the Army here. Shawna, thanks so much for everything you did for this community. Best wishes to your kids, Elena and Max, too. Army families truly help to enable the success of their Soldiers. Pugsley family, we wish you the best as you move on to your next assignment at Space Command in Colorado Springs."

"Now, I am happy to welcome Col. Andrew Morgan, his spouse and his three high-school daughters, to Kwajalein Atoll and to the Installation Management Command-Pacific team. Normally, I tell incoming Garrison Commanders that they have big shoes to fill. While that’s certainly true here, I think Col. Morgan’s resume may present an even higher bar of expectation."

"For those of you who don’t know, Col. Morgan is a West Point graduate, an emergency physician, and … wait for it … a bona fide NASA astronaut. He comes to us from the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, where his duties included serving as flight engineer for multiple missions on the International Space Station."

"Not to be outdone, his spouse also attended West Point graduate, and his son is currently in his second year at the U.S. Military Academy. I could talk all day about Drew’s past accomplishments and his amazing family, but we are here to look to the future. Drew, I am confident that your talents and experience will greatly benefit this community. We welcome you and your family and we expect great things in the years to come.”


Pugsley opened his remarks with humor. He informed the audience that he had attempted to write his speech using the artificial intelligence ChatGPT. It didn’t produce the results he had hoped for, he said. He’d resorted back to paper and pen.

“Don’t try that,” he said, of his first draft. “...It started like this: “Greetings, humans.”

Pugsley thanked his family, whom he credited as the source for his energy and optimism, distinguished guests and those who had joined the ceremony via livestream.

“I know it means a lot to my family and I, and I know it means a lot to the Morgans as well, so again, thank you for taking the time out to join us today,” he said.

Pugsley expressed thanks to his leadership—Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, former U.S. Ambassador to the RMI Roxanne Cabral and Craig Deatrick—who allowed him the flexibility to make tough decisions.

“I really couldn’t be happier,” he said. “Some commanders aren’t as lucky, but I hit the jackpot with the three bosses we had. Thank you for the broad artistic license that you gave me to execute operations here. Sometimes I colored a bit out of the lines but thank you for trusting me knowing that I was doing what I thought to be the best and the right thing.”

In addition to reflecting on the beauties and gifts atoll life has to offer a young family, Pugsley described the often-challenging mission support challenges he undertook during his tour of duty.

“I look back over the last two years, the successes, the challenges, the good things, the bad things, and let’s be honest, sometimes some very ugly things. There’s one consistent piece that has been foundational to getting through that all, and that was people. … It’s all about people: the relationships those people form and nurture–that’s what allows this installation to run."

“In the Army, Kwajalein is unique amongst garrisons. When you consider the fact that it’s hard to do business here, and all those other factors that are sometimes overlooked—highest area cost factor in the Army, most corrosive environment in the Department of Defense, and one of the most remote installations in the world. We reside in the theater that we don’t belong to, … we have LOGCAP as our base operation support contractor—the list goes on and on."

"All of these things complicate how difficult it is to do work here, so the deck in many ways is stacked against us. We play the hand we’re dealt. That’s the only thing we can do. We show up and we play the cards we have been given. I would say we’ve probably played that hand about as well as we could to make sure that we enable the success of our mission partners."

"…We pulled together, and we got it done right. How we do that, why we did that, the reason we were successful is because of every one of you in this audience. Every single one of you here is critical to the success of this mission. So, it’s this framework about people. It’s how I want to frame my thanks.”

Pugsley challenged everyone to continue to work together for the success of the installation. He recognized his teammates and Command Sgt. Maj. Miller.

“Thank you for being such a dedicated and unyielding teammate who always puts this installation and its people first,” Pugsley said, to Miller. “Your expertise and your insight were foundational to resolving some of our biggest challenges. You’ve been a true battle buddy and it has been my utmost privilege to serve with you.”

Pugsley also made special recognition of the contractors and Marshallese teammates that ensured successful operations each day.

“You are the backbone of this installation and is what you do every day regardless of where you work or what you do, you are responsible for the success of this installation. So, thank you to our host nation and friends within the RMI. The partnership between the U.S government and the RMI is truly a special and unique relationship. Thank you for your tireless and continuous efforts to continue to work towards improving that relationship.

“As we saw throughout quarantine and COVID-19, when we work together towards common goals, we can and do achieve great things."

"To our friends, as well as the Kwajalein community as a whole, thank you for not only taking myself and the family into your arms but also every new family, as they come onto this unique installation. It is this small, unique, close, tight-knit community that really makes Kwaj such a remarkable place to live and work."

"It’s within this community that really we find our most cherished memories, be it floats at Bigej, Kwajalein Swim team or just watching bands play at the Kwajalein Yacht Club. These are the things that really make this place special, and they’re the things we are going to miss the most."

"To the Morgan family: I know the last couple days has probably been a little overwhelming. I hope your arrival and integration into this unique community has been everything you hoped it would be. Kwaj has much more to offer than you could probably ever know. I know you will get out there."

"Find things that interest you and get integrated. It’ll make your experiences here so much more fulfilling. Col. Morgan, some parting words of wisdom: First and foremost, trust. They will not fail you. Second: Focus on people in the plural sense. As I’ve mentioned before, I tried for a long time to try to make everyone happy and you just can’t. But, if you get up every day, and you try to do what’s best for the most, and what you know is right, you’re going to sleep well at night. You won’t always be able to do this. Try to make it fun whenever you can."

“In closing, remember that the Army is an organization of change. Today is just another day in a never-ending series of changes within the cycle of the Army. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is. The Army song so eloquently says ‘The Army keeps rolling along.’"

"All of us, every single one of us here, has just a small piece to contribute to that enduring legacy. So, while my contributions to the legacy of Kwaj end today, all of you have much more to give, and I know all of you will do your best every day to ensure that your contributions to the legacy of Kwaj will be impactful and enduring.”


Morgan began his Kwajalein tour with a welcome address in Marshallese—much to the surprise and smiles of his host nation guests.

“I welcome you, and I thank you for being here and express tremendous gratitude for this opportunity—either that, or I just inadvertently gave everyone the week off,” he quipped. “I’m not sure which. I’d like to also reiterate my great gratitude and thanks for you all being here with us today."

"There are also a few other mentors who we have dialed in virtually to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude who inspired and encouraged me to be standing with you—leaders like Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of U.S Space Command, who first planted the seed of this concept in my mind four years ago, and Gen. Bryan Fenton, commanding general of U.S Special Operations Command, who’s been an inspirational mentor for me for more than half of my career, and then, of course, Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general of U.S Army Space and Missile Defense Command, who I have had the privilege of serving under for the last four years, and who encouraged me and helped me plot the course to command."

"Thank you, gentlemen, for your leadership and your mentorship in the lead-up to this day. Several friends of mine highlighted the Army’s sense of humor to assign me to command on Kwajalein, as if living on a Pacific atoll and living on board an orbiting space station might have a few similarities. Both on Kwaj and in space, sometimes we run out of milk and toilet paper."

"For two years I’ve studied the history, the geography and the culture of the Marshall Islands, and I’ve immersed myself in its mission, and concluded these two simple truths."

"One: This garrison is important to both our nations. There is no refuting that this chain of islands has both immeasurable strategic significance to a free and open Indo-Pacific and rich cultural meaning to our Marshallese hosts."

"Two: This is our home. We labor here, we raise our children here, we sleep here each night. It’s a comfortable place we all call home. My beautiful wife and our four children join me in this endeavor, but not without sacrifice they left a familiar place we called home for a decade to move half an orbit away. This was a tall request, and I’m proud of their brave decision to be here with me as a family."

"We built the anticipation as this move approached. We followed you on social media. We’ve watched The Kwaj Current—almost every episode—we read The Hourglass and The Marshall Islands Journal. We’re captivated by this special place and counted down the days until our arrival. We’re passionate about the unique experiences of living abroad and the camaraderie, the challenges and the growth ahead."

"Simply, we cared about this place long before we arrived. We’re all in on this important mission, and we’re proud to call this our home. We couldn’t be happier to be here with you."

"Col. Pugsley–Tom, Shawna, you guys have been incredible teammates, committed to helping us through this transition. Our dialogue over the last year has been invaluable and prepared us well to build on your great work here. You can leave knowing you did an incredible job. Thank you, and best of luck at U.S Space Command."

"To our RMI leaders, we value this special and unique partnership between our countries and look forward to our continued friendship. Our bond has never been more important, and it will only strengthen from here. To the women and the men of the garrison and all of Team Kwajalein, a term that we’ll use to address everyone that calls this their workplace or their home, we’ll continue to thrive on this small and mighty island outpost."

"Thank you to everyone who’s joined us virtually, and here in attendance in person today. Thank you, Chaplain Connor, for your prayers today and in the future. Thank you for the beautiful renditions of the national anthems by Allison Snow and Elaisa Riklon. Thank you to FMWR, AFN, the garrison Host Nation Office and Girl Scout Troop 801 and Boy Scout Troop 314, who poured so much into today’s ceremony. From the bottom of our hearts everybody here today, thank you. All current policies and procedures remain in effect.”