HOUSTON, Texas — The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command’s two Army astronauts received their new rank in a unique way Sept. 27.
Army astronauts Col. Andrew “Drew” Morgan and Lt. Col. Anne McClain, both from the astronaut class of 2013, were promoted while underwater following required training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the Sonny Carter Training Facility.
The NBL is an astronaut training facility featuring a large indoor pool of water in which astronauts may perform simulated EVA tasks in preparation for upcoming missions. Trainees wear suits designed to provide neutral buoyancy to simulate the microgravity they would experience during spaceflight.
Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general, USASMDC/ARSTRAT, presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of office from the NBL control room, which was filled with family, friends and coworkers.
McClain, who was promoted first, said, “It truly is an honor to be in this suit in this pool working with this team, and it’s an honor to be a lieutenant colonel in the Army. Thank you for celebrating this major milestone with me.”
McClain, a Spokane, Washington, native earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical/aeronautical engineering from West Point. A 2002 Marshall Scholar, McClain earned a Master of Science in aerospace engineering from the University of Bath in England, and a Master of Science in international relations from the University of Bristol in England. Also a senior Army aviator, she has more than 2,000 flight hours in 20 different aircraft. She is a rated pilot for the C-12 Huron (King Air), UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-72 Lakota and instructor pilot for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
She is currently assigned to launch Dec. 20 to serve aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for Expedition 58 and 59. McClain, along with her crewmates, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month rotation.
Morgan, who is currently training as McClain’s backup, is an emergency physician in the U.S. Army with sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine. He is a graduate of West Point, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to his selection to NASA’s 21st group of astronauts, Morgan served in elite special operations units worldwide. He is married with four children and considers New Castle, Pennsylvania, his hometown.
Morgan is currently assigned to launch on Soyuz 59S in July 2019 and will serve aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer for Expedition 60 and 61.
Following his promotion, Morgan thanked the NBL team and astronaut office for helping with the unique promotion experience.
“This isn’t something we typically do. I sincerely appreciate everybody. I appreciate all of the work the divers do down here. They are down here with me now,” Morgan said. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate what will be my last promotion in the Army in a space suit with all of you surrounded by the people I love and respect, and to do it alongside Anne McClain, one of the finest officers I’ve ever met – congratulations to you as well.
“I can’t list all of the mentors along the way who have shaped me into who I’ve become but there is one mentor – one friend that I just have to mention by name – my wife, Stacy. I could not have done it without her. I am a better person because of her – my wife of nearly 20 years. I love you very much, Stacy,” he continued.
Thank you to everybody for being here. General Dickinson, thank you for making the trip down here.