By Jason B. Cutshaw, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Public AffairsJuly 21, 2017
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- With a historic agreement, The United States shows dedication to its relationship and addresses the challenge of limited space for Pacific island inhabitants.
Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, signed an implementing arrangement with John Silk, Republic of the Marshall Islands, or RMI, foreign minister, July 12 on Kwajalein Atoll. The agreement will give the Marshallese burial and gardening rights on select islands in the mid-atoll corridor.
"This is an unprecedented milestone in our unique relationship with the U.S.," said RMI Kwajalein Senator David Paul "This will allow people of Kwajalein Atoll residing on the islands of Ebeye, Enebouj, Enelapkan, Bikej, Santo, Mejatto and Ebadon to gain access to this area, which will provide tremendous opportunities for them regarding food security and will also provide option for burial sites for our love ones."
The implementing arrangement open islands and the area of the mid-atoll corridor to visitation unless closed temporarily on orders of the United States Army Garrison - Kwajalein Atoll commander in order to avoid interference with operations of the defense sites or to avoid posing safety hazards to individuals in the area. Notice of these periods of closure shall be given to the RMI government in a timely manner.
However, in no event will there be less access to the Mid-Atoll Corridor than 126 days each calendar year.
Based on analysis conducted by the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, the impact on range operations will be minimal.
"U.S. Army Garrison -- Kwajalein Atoll remains dedicated to ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands," said Col. James A. DeOre Jr., U.S. Army Garrison - Kwajalein Atoll commander. "Permitting burials in the mid-atoll corridor during non-closure periods is a common-sense idea that demonstrates SMDC's and USAG-KA's commitment to advancing that mutually beneficial relationship."
The islands within the geographic areas are available for burial and the construction of structures no more than 15 feet in height built for the purpose of directly supporting burial and related gardening activities on the islands.
"The implementing instructions on mid-atoll gardening burial will address a long-term challenge of limited space on Enniburr and Ebeye," said Dr. James H. Isbell, USASMDC/ARSTRAT political and military advisor. "Additionally, the agreement will facilitate the opportunity for Marshallese to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which can help address the diabetes crisis that impacts the Atoll and nation.
"We understand the challenges our operations place on the Marshallese people," Isbell added. "This agreement shows we can be sensitive to their needs while still performing the military's strategic missions and continuing to foster this vitally important and symbiotic relationship."