The U.S. Army Recruiting Command, in partnership with NASA, hosted the first-ever nationwide oath of enlistment from the International Space Station on Wednesday.
From space, U.S. Army Col. and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan led more than 800 future soldiers across the country in taking the oath. These included nine local young men and women at the Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum in Kalamazoo.
Morgan said there are hundreds of opportunities in the Army not just on the battlefield. He said a lot of jobs are shifting to STEM.
"We're the most technological, advanced military ever known and we need STEM background across the board," Morgan said. "About one third of specialties in the Army require stem backgrounds, and that's critical."
U.S. Army representatives said only 29% of youth meet the minimum qualifications to serve as a soldier. Those selected to serve receive top technical training and education in more than 150 career fields.
Southwest Michigan enlistee Johnathon Ellis, 18, said he pursued a U.S. Army career for the endless opportunities, and said the oath was a unique experience.
"This whole thing was very surreal," Ellis said. "To be here at the Air Zoo, which is a local place I've been before, have an astronaut swear us in from space, almost 1,000 of us."
Michaela Emme, a future soldier, said she chose to enlist so she could further her career.
"There are stereotypes that people in the Army really only get to do one thing, and that's not true. There are so many career opportunities," Emme said. "You don't have to just be enlisted, or just be an officer. There are so many different directions you can go through STEM, or anything like that."
Pvt. Marshal Liesen is an Apache attack helicopter mechanic and said he uses STEM on the job every day.
"I use more math and engineering than anything with my job," Liesen said. "If we don't, nothing will get done and stay broken."
He said he sees STEM continuing to impact the Army for the better.
"The Army is always changing, and so is the world around," he said. "It's always being improved by technology, math and science."
U.S. Army representatives said soldiers rely on satellites in space to help them see, shoot, move and communicate on the ground.
NASA and the Army have been working together for over 60 years. Right now there are three active duty astronauts in the Army. Morgan said they are looking for more.