By Ruth F. MiskovskyApril 4, 2011
KWAJALEIN Atoll -- The Department of State turned its eyes toward the Marshall Islands and Kwajalein in general during a recent trip to the area by an official from the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Frankie Reed, the deputy assistant secretary for this region, along with U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands Martha Campbell, arrived March 17 at Bucholz Army Airfield on Kwajalein. By the time the two departed, they had set foot on five islands in the atoll and met scores of people.
The itinerary for this trip was packed and Reed and Campbell spent their time in the atoll doing everything from being briefed on Kwajalein and Roi, visiting schools on Ennibur to meeting RMI officials on Ebeye - all in two days.
Despite the short timeframe, Reed had some important points to take away from this trip. She commented on the positive work the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll is doing in the atoll, the interaction between the U.S. and R.M.I. citizens and some of the challenges for Kwajalein Atoll.
"The work USAKA is doing out here is having a great impact," Reed said. She also noted that it's not just the Army that's contributing to the area. Private organizations are donating time and money to the communities. Even this interaction at the local level strengthens the partnership between the United States and the Marshall Islands, according to Reed.
Col. Joseph Gaines, USAKA commander, discussed some of the issues brought up at a recent USAKA/RMI Community Relations Council meeting with Reed and Campbell. He also briefed the two State Department officials on the USAKA mission, including a tour of Roi-Namur and some of USAKA's assets there.
Archeologist Leslie Mead gave Reed a brief historical tour of the island of Roi-Namur and explained its role in World War II. On Ebeye, Reed and Campbell were greeted at the pier by Kwajalein Atoll government officials, a police color guard and women from Jine Tip-Tip, the women's club on Ebeye.
The group, including Gaines and members of his staff, were offered traditional Marshallese food and some American fare at a gathering that included speeches by Reed, Iroij Senator Michael Kabua and Senator Tony DeBrum. A driving tour of many of the facilities on the island of Ebeye and a detour to Senator Kabua's residence on South Loi followed the formal gathering.
The visit to Ebeye also gave Gaines a chance to discuss some major topics of concern with members of KALGOV and go over possible changes to USAKA's response to the March 11 tsunami. Specifically, Gaines offered to have a member of the USAKA Host Nations Office come to Ebeye to work on the details of USAKA/KALGOV cooperation in the case of a future event.
Gaines and USAKA staff members hosted Reed and Campbell during their visit and facilitated their trips to Kwajalein, Ebeye, Roi-Namur and Ennibur. Officials from the Kwajalein Atoll government on Ebeye and Ennibur coordinated the tours and meetings on those islands.