REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- Leaders from the government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or RMI, visited the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command headquarters to learn more about the command's strategic mission and how it affects them.

USASMDC/ARSTRAT leaders emphasized the important position that Kwajalein and the Marshallese play in the command's strategic mission during the Oct. 25-26 visit. Also during the visit, members of the RMI delegation agreed that trust, mutual respect, and open dialogue are key to the success of this symbiotic relationship.

"For a number of years I know Redstone Arsenal has been connected as a command center to Kwajalein, but this is the first time I have ever been to this facility," said John M. Silk, Marshallese Minister of Foreign Affairs. "I have always been interested in the connection, and I wanted to know what the responsibilities are so when the opportunity to visit came up, I took it.

"I wanted to learn more about our connection and also to discuss some very important issues that include Kwajalein and the Army," he added. "SMDC has treated us with respect and I am thankful to the command for hosting us. It has been an eye-opening visit and I look forward to continued dialogue with the command."

During the visit to SMDC, along with partners in the State Department, U.S. Pacific Command, Installation Management Command and Army Contracting Command, the delegation discussed a wide variety of issues to include the Rikatak Program for education, the continuing investigations surrounding the reef fish, and the future services and logistics contract.

"The discussions were very successful and are a continuation of our ongoing dialogue with the Marshallese people and government," said Dr. James Isbell, USASMDC/ARSTRAT political adviser. "The meetings help foster trust, transparency and open dialogue in our symbiotic and strategic relationship."

While visiting, members of the RMI delegation received a Reagan Test Site Operations Center-Huntsville, or ROC-H, overview brief on the command's mission test operations. During the brief, they learned about the enduring nature of the RMI and SMDC's bilateral relationship, the important role that the Marshallese play in the command's strategic mission, and the similarities and differences between the Huntsville and Kwajalein mission control centers.

"Over the past three years we have made it a priority to move as many personnel and functions from the islands," said Col. Rod L. Stuckey Sr., director, Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. "Due to over-crowding and over logistical issues, the decision was made to move the mission test operations to Huntsville. It makes coordination with our customers easier and gives our leadership an opportunity to see test operations in real time. Additionally, we wanted the delegation to understand that the operations were really controlled from this location.

"For many of the delegates, it was the first time visiting our facility, he added. "A number of them had only heard from their constituents on how we perform operation, but never understood our mission or test objectives. The visit answered numerous question and solidified our positive working relationship."

Before leaving Redstone Arsenal on their way back home, a member of the delegation talked about how appreciative he was for the opportunity to visit the command and to understand more about the role SMDC plays on the island.

"The visit is significant," said Scott Paul, Kwajalein Atoll Local Government city manager. "We get a chance to discuss issues that affect both the Marshallese and Americans who work on the base so there is no double-standard when it comes to benefits. We want to include more of the Marshallese workforce into future endeavors between our nations. This not only helps our economy, but also fosters relations between our two countries. The more we are able to transfer knowledge, wealth and opportunities, the better our relationship will be for both."