The Citadel Space Star

Citadel Randy Bresnik Principled Leadership Symposium

Randy Bresnik Expedition PatchVeteran NASA astronaut, Col. Randy Bresnik, USMC (Ret.), is one of The Citadel’s most visible principled leaders in the history of the college. The 1989 alumnus will serve as flight engineer July 28 on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). He and two crewmates will launch to the ISS from Russia on the Russian Soyuz MS-05 at the estimated time of 11:41 a.m. EDT. While on the ISS, Bresnik will assume command  of the ISS when the operation transitions to Expedition 53.

Learn more about this venerable leader and his work, as well as The Citadel’s other space-related STEM initiatives below.

Meet Col. Randy “Komrade” Bresnik, USMC (Ret.), veteran astronaut and commander of NASA International Space Station expedition

Bresnik at the NEEMO Dive Site

Randolph James “Komrade” Bresnik is a NASA astronaut and a former U.S. Marine Corps aviator. He was born in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, on Sept. 11, 1967, but considers Santa Monica, California where he graduated from high school, to be his hometown.

In college, Bresnik studied mathematics while a member of The South Carolina Corps of Cadets at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended on a U.S. Marine Corps scholarship, was a Dean’s List and Gold Star student, and received several Citadel and President’s scholarships.

He graduated in 1989, and commissioned as an officer into the Marine Corps. While a Marine, Bresnik earned a Master of Science in Aviation Systems from the University of Tennessee in 2002, and graduated from the Air War College in 2008.

In May of 2004, Bresnik was among the elite few to be selected out of approximately
4,000 applicants to become one of the 11 members of NASA’s Astronaut Class 9. He completed his astronaut candidate training in February 2006, becoming the first graduate of The Citadel to have the opportunity to fly in space.

Some of Brenik’s primary NASA assignments have included the following:

Bresnik Space Walk

  • STS-129: In 2009, Bresnik was a part of the Space Shuttle Atlantis crew that docked with the ISS for 11 days of assignments. His two spacewalks during that mission known as STS-129 totaled 11 hours and 50 minutes according to NASA. His daughter was born while he was on the mission. A video of his celebration in space can be seen below.
  • Cave-a-naut: Bresnik trained as a cave-a-naut (a video can be seen by clicking here) for the European Space Agency, testing impacts on the human body while living deep beneath the Earth’s surface.
  • Aquanaut: In 2014, Bresnik commanded a team of aquanauts for NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO), aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory.

Bresnik is married to Rebecca Burgin, who was originally from Pompton Plains, New Jersey. They have a son, Wyatt, and a daughter Abigail Mae who was born while Bresnik was on orbit during the STS-129 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2009.

Marine Corps service (Courtesy of NASA)

In May 1989, Bresnik received his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps from the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at The Citadel. After graduation he attended the Basic School and Infantry Officers Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Following aviation indoctrination and primary flight training in Pensacola, Florida, he entered intermediate and advanced flight training in Beeville, Texas, and was designated a naval aviator in 1992.

Bresnik then reported to the Navy Fighter/Attack Training Squadron VFA-106, Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Florida, for initial F/A-18 training. Upon completion of training he reported to Marine Fighter/Attack Squadron, VMFA-212 at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, then MCAS El Toro, California, and additionally MCAS Miramar, California, where he made three overseas deployments to the western Pacific. While assigned to VMFA-212, he attended the Marine Corps Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course and Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN).

Randy Bresnik and Col. Tom Clark III
Bresnik (left) and Col. Tom Clark III, USMC (Ret.) both attended The Citadel in the 1980s and flew the F/A-18 in missions together as Marines. Seen visiting Johnson Space Center in 2007. Clark is the director of The Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel.

Bresnik was selected for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and began the course in January 1999. After graduation in December 1999, he was assigned as an F/A-18 test pilot/project officer at VX-23, the Naval Strike Aircraft Test Squadron. While at Strike, Bresnik flew the F/A-18 A-D and F/A-18 E/F in all manners of flight test.

In January 2001, he returned to the USNTPS as a Fixed-Wing and Systems Flight Instructor, where he instructed in the F/A-18, T-38 Talon, and T-2 Buckeye. Bresnik returned to NSATS in January 2002 to continue flight test on the F/A-18 A-F as the Platform/Project Coordinator.

In November 2002, he reported to Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11) as the future operations officer. In January 2003, MAG-11 deployed to Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. From Al Jaber, he flew combat missions in the F/A-18 with VMFA(AW)-225 in support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bresnik was the operations officer of VMFA-232 when he was selected for the astronaut program.

During his military service he was awarded: the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medals (3), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V” (3), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals (3), Presidential Unit Citation and various other service awards.

Randolph J. Bresnik
Photos courtesty of: Col. Randy Bresnik, NASA, EAS, Col. Tom Clark

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