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 underscored the important position that Kwajalein Atoll and the Marshallese play in the command's strategic mission during an April 5 visit. During a command overview brief, leaders emphasized the significant role that Kwajalein and the Marshallese play in the command's strategic mission and that trust, mutual respect and open dialogue are key to the success of the bilateral relationship.

"This is the second time I have visited the command and I have learned more today than last time," said John M. Silk, Marshallese Minister of Foreign Affairs. "That is because we have a very open dialogue between the two parties and last time I was here we established trust, which is very important. If you look at the way the relationship has developed, we have seen much progress and this trip tops it off."

The event was organized when Minister in Assistance David Paul, Kwajalein Atoll senator, requested to visit the command with a delegation to discuss issues of mutual interest and to enhance the bilateral relationship.

Besides Silk and Paul, the delegation included Hirata Kabua, Kwajalein Atoll mayor; Lanny Kabua, RMI Representative to U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll, or USAG-KA; Odrikawa Jatios, Kwajalein Atoll Development Authority, or KADA, board member; and Felix Loeak, KADA board member; as well as Col. James DeOre, USAG-KA commander; and Maj. Dan Lacaria, host nation director.

Also present at the forum was SMDC's lead in supporting the mutual defense and security relations and cooperation between the U.S. and RMI. He discussed how these meetings foster positive relationships and address the longstanding foreign, economic and political policy concerns of both nations.

"It is significant to renew our decades-long relationship and this was a forum for us to discuss the mutual benefits of our organization's mission and the residents of the Kwajalein Atoll," said Kevin Crumlish, SMDC political-military adviser. "It is important to be able to sit down and discuss the path forward to grow stronger as the mission potentially changes or grows and how the Marshallese can potentially benefit from those interactions. We look forward to continuing these discussions in the future.

"Our meetings were very successful," he added. "We took some actions from both sides to be able to coordinate in the future things that can only come up when you are having face-to-face conversations. We will continue that dialogue to leverage the many recent successes we have had in our relationship and to improve them in the future."

During the command overview brief, delegates learned about the enduring nature of the RMI and SMDC's bilateral relationship and the capabilities of the Huntsville and Kwajalein mission control centers.

Before leaving Redstone Arsenal on their way back home, Kwajalein's garrison commander told how appreciative he was for the opportunity to increase understanding about the role SMDC plays on the atoll and how to better the relationship in the future.

"This delegation has come to reaffirm the commitment of the two countries as a mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and the government of the Marshall Islands," DeOre said. "They are integral in developing our national security and defense activities. They are a huge element in workforce development for the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll and they have a great deal of interest in the welfare of the workforce that comes from the local community in the Marshall Islands.

"The missions that occur within the Marshall Islands are incredibly important and the highly technical nature of the activities within the Reagan Test Site are unmatched anywhere in the world," he added. "When you bring all of our leaders together, we can talk about where we have been successful and can talk through some areas where we need to improve the relationship and learn how we can fix some other areas. Seldom do you get a collection of people together who can actually solve problems and this is absolutely the right group of people to do that."