SMDC astronaut statue represents command

By Jason Cutshaw, USASMDCMay 15, 2024

SMDC astronaut statue represents command
Capt. Micah Hitchcock, commander U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Headquarters and Headquarters Company, transfers the command’s Army astronaut statue to Lira Frye, USASMDC Public Affairs director, to be used for command outreach in community engagements throughout the year. (U.S. Army photo by Jason B. Cutshaw) (Photo Credit: Jason Cutshaw) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Even though he has never gone into orbit, one Army astronaut nevertheless represents the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Army astronauts to the public.

USASMDC Headquarters and Headquarters Command recently transferred its Army astronaut statue to the command’s Public Affairs Office to use in community engagements throughout the year.

Master Sgt. Manuel Romo, USASMDC HHC operations noncommissioned officer in charge, said the astronaut statue was originally purchased in 2018 by Capt. Ryan Enix, then the HHC commander.

“The intent of the statue is to serve as a reminder to the Soldiers and civilians of SMDC, that space Soldiers are always ready to perform their assigned mission, no matter their location, even in space,” Romo said. “Capt. Enix secured a full color SMDC unit patch and affixed it to the astronauts arm in the same location that the real astronauts wear their SMDC patch when they conduct space walks.

“The statute then became a center piece in HHC,” he added. “Every commander who has followed Capt. Enix kept it in their office as a reminder that space Soldiers are the ones charged with securing the high ground.”

Romo said the astronaut statue goes with the command to the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium, annual Association of the U.S. Army Global Force Symposium, fun runs located on Redstone Arsenal and other community outreach events.

The statue was transferred to Public Affairs after current Army astronauts, Col. Drew Morgan, Col. Anne McClain and Col. Frank Rubio autographed it with the intent for being used for publicity and to bring awareness to the NASA Detachment at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“I am looking forward seeing the astronaut at future SMDC events,” Romo said. “It is fun to know that I helped share a small piece of Army space history with the public.”

Capt. Micah Hitchcock, the current USASMDC HHC commander, said showcasing the astronaut at events is an opportunity for people to ask questions and become informed about the command’s many missions. He added it is also a great recruiting tool for younger generations to know that you can literally reach the stars in the Army.

“Now that the statue is signed by all three of our current Army astronauts, we hope this legacy continues for years to come as Soldiers are selected by NASA to represent our Army and our nation,” Hitchcock said. “Our Army astronauts truly embody the phrase ‘Secure the High Ground.’”

Hitchcock said that USASMDC is the only Army unit with astronauts, who are more than engineers, explorers and scientists, and that they represent the human desire to explore, innovate and expand known horizons.

“They are the few who were chosen from many to be perfect in what is asked of them because the stakes are high with little room for error,” Hitchcock said. “It is a very interesting dichotomy having Army astronauts given the Army exists to deploy, fight and win wars while NASA’s purpose is to explore and conduct earth and space science. Our Army astronauts do a fantastic job bridging the gap between those two missions by providing space expertise and broadening the astronaut expertise pool for deep space exploration initiatives.

“The symbolism of the statue represents this contrast in that Soldiers can and will be prepared to meet the challenges no matter what is asked of them,” he added. “It is a major point of pride in the unit to be the only Army organization that has astronauts. Now that is unique.”

Hitchcock said the statue represents what a ‘typical’ spacesuit looks like and embodies more of what people think of when it comes to NASA’s mission of human spaceflight. He added that one similarity between the space suit and the Army Combat Uniform is the American flag in that both showcase the importance and ties to the American people and their values.

“Astronauts certainly are a reflection of the nation that put them into space in the first place,” Hitchcock said. “This generates a great sense of national pride and represents the technological advances America has achieved. The SMDC patch on the astronaut combines both national pride and the ability for our nation to be flexible, understanding and cooperative with partner nations.

“This astronaut statue will hopefully continue that sort of outreach by showcasing to the public that there are unlimited opportunities within the Army,” he added. “I hope in the years to come, it continues to make its way to events and carry the legacy of SMDC.”