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Meet The Special Operations Doctor NASA Plans On Shooting Into Outer Space
Next June, Army Lt. Col. Andrew Morgan will strap into a capsule on the top of a Russian Soyuz-FG rocket. As the first stage engines ignite, 838.5 kilonewtons of thrust will thunder out of four liquid-fueled boosters. Less than ten minutes later, he will be in space, orbiting the Earth.
Morgan is not your typical astronaut recruit. He went to West Point. He became a doctor. He volunteered for Army Special Forces. He served as the flight surgeon for the 3rd Special Forces group out of Fort Bragg. And when the highly publicized opportunity appeared in 2012 to apply for astronaut training, he applied like most of us do for new jobs: by filling out a boilerplate application online.
“When I applied, I figured, ‘There's no chance I'm gonna get selected,'" Morgan told Task & Purpose in a recent interview, “because they had never selected an astronaut that looked like me."
He was right: When Soyuz mission 59S launches next year he will be the first U.S. Army doctor to fly in space.
“I planned a career that I was excited about, and nothing excites me more than being in a position of doctor in special operations and taking care of the bravest soldiers on the planet,” Morgan said. “I had this dream of being an astronaut, but I didn't plan a career around how best to become an astronaut.”
As a medical officer, Maj. Morgan deployed with Army Special Forces to Afghanistan in 2009.DoD photo
Like most born into military families, Morgan moved around frequently in his early life. Morgan’s father was an officer in the Air Force for 24 years who retired as a full-bird colonel. As a teenager, Morgan was extremely competitive: He ranked top of his class academically, and also excelled as both a swimmer and a wrestler. That combination of intelligence and athletic acumen propelled Morgan into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
At West Point, Morgan made his name with the ‘Black Knights,’ the elite cadet parachutist group renowned for their drops into events around the country. Only a handful of cadets are selected for the prestigious squad, and of Morgan’s cohort, one other Black Knight went on to become an astronaut; three became Army battalion commanders, one became a squadron commander, another was a defense attache, and the last became an assistant dean of a university.
“I think that the type of person that goes to West Point,” Morgan said, “are the types of people who pursue becoming an astronaut.”
Andrew Morgan and the 'Black Knights' pose at West Point in 1998.Andrew Morgan via Twitter
In 1998, then-2nd Lt. Morgan graduated from West Point and enrolled at the Uniformed Services University, also known as “America's Medical School,” to become a doctor specializing in emergency physician practices. It was an unusual decision: most West Point graduates roll directly into their military careers after commissioning. But after completing his residency, Morgan volunteered for an assignment with U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Morgan ended up becoming the battalion surgeon for the 3rd Special Forces Group based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Along the way, he also completed the combat divers course and Ranger School, arguably two of the toughest courses in the U.S. armed forces. When he goes to space, Morgan told Task & Purpose, his Ranger tab will "definitely" be going with him.
Andrew Morgan early in his Army career.Andrew Morgan
While with the 3rd Special Forces Group, he deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, honing his craft as a emergency physician. These experiences are not conventional compared to a traditional astronaut applicant: In 2013, Morgan was selected out of a pool of applicants to train for six years to join the next wave of American astronauts. Over 6,000 competitive candidates applied, and out of this pool of talented test pilots, scientists, and engineers; fewer than 8 were chosen.
The training leading up to the launch of Soyuz 59S next summer has been both physically and mentally challenging. Morgan had to learn to fly the T-38 jet trainer; he did extravehicular activity training in pools to simulate the weightless environment of space. Among other things, Morgan had to learn Russian, fly at extreme altitudes to prepare for wearing a pressure suit, and undergo survival training, just in case his Russian capsule lands off-course in the uninhabited wilderness of Siberia.
Astronaut candidate Andrew Morgan trains at a NASA pool facility.Andrew Morgan
"I enjoy all of it," Morgan said. "Every day is a little bit different. We're always doing some kind of really exciting training that's challenges and rewarding. It's a lot like being in the Army."
Even after his flight next year, Morgan says that he will look back at it all and point to the achievements he made while in a Army uniform as the defining moments of his life.
“At my core, I'm an Army medical doctor, and what I have been able to give to soldiers that I've mentored and soldiers that I've treated and their families that I've treated,” he said. “That, to me, has been the greatest honor of my life.”
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'We are dropping like flies' — Former fighter pilots are pushing the Pentagon for earlier cancer screenings
WASHINGTON — Former Air Force and Navy fighter pilots are calling on the military to begin cancer screenings for aviators as young as 30 because of an increase in deaths from the disease that they suspect may be tied to radiation emitted in the cockpit.
"We are dropping like flies in our 50s from aggressive cancers," said retired Air Force Col. Eric Nelson, a former F-15E Strike Eagle weapons officer. He cited prostate and esophageal cancers, lymphoma, and glioblastomas that have struck fellow pilots he knew, commanded or flew with.
Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are warning soldiers and military families to be aware of scammers using the Exchange's logo.
In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.
KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.
The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.
Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.
The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".
Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.
In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.
Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.
The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.
Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."
Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.