By Jason CutshawApril 11, 2018
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama - A dedicated local, national and international leader was honored by his U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command team members during a memorial ceremony April 3.
Dr. James H. Isbell, who served as the USASMDC/ARSTRAT political and military affairs adviser since April 2014, passed away March 20.
"Everybody is here today because they admired, respected and in some cases loved James," said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, SMDC commanding general. "He made a very powerful impression to me. He was one of my most trusted advisers. Immediately, James established himself as a professional and as a person of trust. I can't say enough good things about James," he continued. "There isn't anybody I know who could take complex issues that arise and figure out clear, practical solutions. When I think of James and what words may best describe him, they are: passionate, compassionate, devoted, loyal, exceptionally smart and a continual learner. He is a Soldier. He is a sailor. He is a gentleman, And I think everybody would agree in here, that he is a patriot.
"It is with great sadness, but fond memories, that we bid farewell to Dr. James Isbell," Dickinson added. "May God bless you, James, and may God bless your wonderful family."
Isbell was a native of Huntsville. Prior to joining SMDC, he spent 18 years conducting political and military research and analysis in support of the offices of the secretary of defense, the State Department and the department of the Army.
He served in the Army National Guard from 1993 to 1999 and earned his doctorate in 2002 from the University of Alabama.
In 2004, Isbell commissioned into the U.S. Navy Reserves as an intelligence officer, where he served until his passing. His Navy Reserve assignments include Navy Forces Central Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency's Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and two tours in Afghanistan.
"All of the things he did dovetailed together and really made him a perfect selection to be the international and political and military affairs adviser for the Army Space and Missile Defense Command," said Dr. John Fairlamb, former SMDC political and military adviser.
In the command, Isbell had the responsibility of ensuring missile treaty compliance for the Army and his duties included interacting with the Kwajalein Atoll and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or RMI, leadership. Isbell worked to foster a positive relationship with the Marshallese government.
His recent efforts led to legislative protections regarding longstanding concerns in the RMI and the continuation of the Ri-Katak program at Kwajalein that allows Marshallese children to attend school with American children.
"Saying goodbye is very, very hard," said James B. Johnson Jr., deputy to the SMDC commander. "One of the things about James that stands out to me is that he was the consumate professional. We could always count on James to provide sage advice, and he was passionate in his many endeavers as the command's political and military affairs adviser.
"We spend a tremendous amount of time with our coworkers. In many respects our coworkers are like members of our family," he continued. "We work together. We laugh together. We travel together; and we occassionally make each other mad, but the good times far outweigh the bad. With our coworkers we develop bonds and deep friendships, so losing our close friend is very hard.
"I would like thank Dr. Isbell for making a difference for our nation, for making a difference for this command, and he made a difference in my life," Johnson added. "He will be greatly missed."
During the ceremony, Dickinson presented Isbell's family with the Department of the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his service to the nation.
Also, the Republic of Marshall Island Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade John M. Silk presented Isbell with the Distinguished Foreign Service Award for advancing "the mutual defense and security relations and cooperation between the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States of America and has proved his worth as a representative of his country in areas important to the foreign, economic and political policies of both nations." It added that at all times Isbell showed the calmness, clarity, dedication and judgment that are the characteristics of an outstanding political and military adviser, and a true friend of the Marshallese people.
Isbell is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and their four sons; Walker, Connor, Eli and Ethan.