The anticipation was high in more than 150 locations across the nation as future service members, family members, teachers, students and Army recruiters waited for the connection to the International Space Station.
In the Space Center Theater at the Houston Space Center in Houston, Texas, applause erupted as NASA astronaut and Soldier Col. Andrew Morgan appeared on the five-story theater screen and announced to mission control he was ready for the event.
The event was an oath of enlistment ceremony, which was broadcasted nationwide Feb. 26, and in which nearly 1,000 future service members participated. Hosted by U.S. Army Recruiting Command in conjunction with Space Center Houston and NASA, this was the first event of its kind.
“Though the U.S. Army and NASA have been working together for more than 60 years, this is the first time ever to host a nationwide oath of enlistment – from space,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command and ceremony host.
The Army is a highly technical organization and the largest user of space-enabled systems, and its modernization efforts continue to focus on the asymmetric capabilities that space based technologies can provide. Morgan is a direct reflection of the type of Soldiers the Army is looking to fill its ranks.
“More than ever, we need qualified and innovative talent who are on the cutting edge of tomorrow’s potential,” Michaelis said. “The Future Soldiers represented here today represent that future, whether it is on the ground, in the air, or in cyberspace. They will work with tomorrow’s technology and are about to embark on a journey that will shape their entire lives.”
Michaelis introduced Morgan and asked him to share a bit about himself before administering the oath to those participating throughout the United States.
“Thank you so much. It’s really a great honor for me to administer the oath of enlistment today from this magnificent spaceship the ISS,” Morgan said.
Morgan has been aboard the ISS for almost nine months, and by the time he returns to Earth, he will have participated in almost 300 science experiments. He credited the opportunity to his Army experience.
“I made the decision when I was 18 years old to raise my right hand just like you’re about to,” he said. “I am still a Soldier, I’m just serving in space on the ultimate high ground. I’m here as a direct result of the opportunities I had in the Army.”
Morgan stated that he was a Soldier through and through and unzipped his blue jump suit showing off the black and gold, U.S. Army t-shirt he was wearing to demonstrate his pride in his service. He then asked the future service members to stand.
“Today marks the first day of the rest of your lives and you will forever be changed by your decision to serve your country,” he said.
Morgan directed them all to raise their right hand and delivered the oath. The future service members proudly repeated the words so many have uttered before them. Upon completion, the audience gave a resounding applause.
Following the oath, Morgan answered questions from future service members submitted from throughout the U.S. One question, submitted by Lindsey Alexander, Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Florida, asked Morgan about obstacles he faced and how he overcame them and how they do so as the embark on their own careers.
“All things that are worth doing are hard. As you set off on this journey, you will – at some time – hear that voice in your head that tells you, ‘Maybe this isn’t for you. Hey, you should quit now when there are so many other more comfortable ways to go about life than this,’ and that is your signal that what you’re doing is worth doing.”
After Morgan signed off, Michaelis invited the Army’s newest astronaut, Lt. Col. Francisco Rubio, who was in attendance, to come up to answer more questions from the audience. Rubio previously served as an Army aviator and is a board certified family physician and flight surgeon.
“There are things that are going to be difficult… and there will be times where you’re going to say ‘why am I doing this,’” Rubio said. “And the reason you’re doing this is because it’s going to make you a better person. And it’s going to make you a person of character and shape you into a person who can do hard things really well.”
Rubio thanked the future service members and their families for their contribution. He told them that they represent the future of the Armed Services, and without them, all the sacrifices those currently serving have made mean nothing.
The significance of this event and participation in it was not lost on the future service members in attendance. Many future Soldiers like Nathan Sado, from the Houston Recruiting Battalion, were honored and inspired by the event.
“It means that the Army is bigger than just global now.” Sado said. “It’s also in space obviously, and it means anyone can do whatever they want with the Army and it’s allowing people opportunities they wouldn’t get with the normal civilian life.”