The Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. nonprofit think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs, was at White Sands Missile Range May 2 to tour the range and get a better understanding of WSMR's role in national defense.
The 24-member-team, which included representatives from government agencies, the private sector and academia, was briefed on several WSMR programs at the Frontier Club before touring the Cox Range Control Center, WSMR Museum and taking a tour of the test range.
"This visit is about having transparency with our government and to showcase what we do here at WSMR, and how what we do contributes to our national defense," said Garrison Commander Col. Chris Ward.
"It is always important to get the Army and DoD message out to stakeholders and folks that might not understand the importance of what we do here for national security and the entire defense department," said White Sands Test Center Commander Col. David Cheney.
"That is why it is important that we host groups like the CFR and others like them so they can understand what it is we do here and how complicated it is, and (point out) the support we need. It is important to the mission," Cheney said.
Meaghan M. Fulco, director for the Council on Foreign Relations, said the purpose of their trip to WSMR was information gathering.
"Most of us have never had access to a place like this before and we are trying to broaden our knowledge of what is happening here and learn about the role WSMR has in our national defense and how it affects all of us," Fulco said.
Fulco described members of the CFR as influencers and decision makers who want to be informed. She said members are able to spread the word about what is happening at WSMR and get the word out about all the good work WSMR is doing.
Ward, who welcomed the group during the morning briefing, said that as is the case with all distinguished visitors, the purpose of the CFR visit was to inform and educate them about what is happening here at WSMR.
"White Sands is a national treasure and we want to showcase what activities and programs go on here. They in turn can go back to their communities and share their experiences and what they have learned during their visit."
Ward said the group was very engaged throughout the day and asked a lot of intelligent questions.
Emerita Torres, a political advisor with the U.S. Department of State and CFR member, said this was a fact finding trip where the CFR is looking at various organizations and military capabilities.
"This is for our consumption as policy makers," Torres said. "Some of us are policy makers, others work for private sector and the media."
Marisa Shannon, assistant director for the Council on Foreign Relations, said she was very impressed by how expansive WSMR is.
"I really had no understanding of WSMR before I came here today," Shannon said. "I was very impressed by the presentations we were given this morning and I'm leaving with a better understanding of everything they are doing here in regards to testing and how efficient and safe they are."
Mattathias Schwarts, a contributing writer with The New York Times Magazine and CFR member, said he was impressed by the rich history of WSMR in developing U.S. military capabilities and had a chance to witness how that tradition is being carried forward today.
"The knowledge I gained during this trip will be a useful lens when I think about foreign policy moving forward and discuss it with my peers and write about it. Having had the chance to witness what goes on at WSMR first hand will be invaluable."
The CFR visited Fort Bliss the day before their tour of WSMR.