Army Enlistment: an Out-of-this-World Experience for Tualatin High Senior

Family and friends of Natalie Unis listen to NASA astronaut and Army Col. Andrew Morgan during his broadcast from the International Space Station.

For anyone joining the military, taking the oath of enlistment is sure to be a memorable experience. That’s certainly true for Natalie Unis, a Tualatin High School senior who recently pledged to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” as part of a first-ever nationwide enlistment ceremony that included live broadcasts from Space Center Houston and the International Space Station.

Unis, who is joining the Army Reserves, was among hundreds of students from around the U.S. who were nominated by local recruiters and then selected by a national committee to participate in the Feb. 26 event, which was broadcast locally onto a large screen in the Tualatin High library.

Natalie Unis poses with staff sergeants Jessica Jenner and Jose Rocha from the U.S. Army Canby Recruiting Station.

“Though the Army and NASA have been working together for over 60 years,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis said from on location at Space Center Houston, “this is the first time to host a nationwide oath of enlistment from space for over 1,000 future soldiers at over 150 locations, where they will launch – no pun intended – their careers.”

Soon after his comments, a connection was established with NASA astronaut and Army Col. Andrew Morgan aboard the space station orbiting some 250 miles above the Earth.

“It’s really a great honor for me to administer the oaths of enlistment today from this magnificent spaceship,” Morgan said as he floated in the space station in front of a backdrop of international flags.

As family, friends, fellow students and local Army recruiters looked on, Unis raised her right hand and recited the oath as it was administered by Morgan, a combat veteran and physician who is in the midst of a 9-month deployment on the space station.

“I’m pretty excited right now,” Unis told reporters following the ceremony, adding that it made her feel that, “I’m part of something bigger than myself.”

After graduation, Unis plans on attending Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego, where she will study nursing, according to the school district.

“I wanted to have a personal connection, to help people in a very direct way,” she said of her decision to go into nursing.

Unis says that being a part of the Army Reserves will give her additional experience and training. But it will also give her the chance to serve.

“I really wanted to serve my country – that was a big thing for me,” she said. “I have a lot of family members who have served.”

During the broadcast from the space station, Morgan said that, before becoming an astronaut, “I was a soldier first.”

“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 incredible opportunities I had in the Army, and I’m a soldier through and through.”

The idea that being a soldier can serve as the foundation for a variety of roles and opportunities resonated with Unis.

“Maybe someday I can be as cool as he is,” she said of Morgan.