Jordan Vinson, for the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll’s Kwajalein Hourglass
Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, the newly appointed commanding general of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, made his first visit to the Reagan Test Site on U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll this week. It was an opportunity for the former U.S. Strategic Command chief of staff to get a ground tour of RTS facilities on Kwajalein Atoll, receive briefings on RTS orbital tracking and anti-ballistic missile missions and meet the men and women who make RTS and USAG-KA tick.
During a speaking event Wednesday, Jan. 18, Dickinson made it a point to emphasize that his first work trip out of Redstone Arsenal after assuming command should be Kwajalein Atoll.
“It’s very, very important what happens out here,” Dickinson told a crowd of island residents and off-island visitors at the Kwajalein High School Multi-Purpose Room. “Important enough that … this is my first trip. I wanted to come here first and then continue onward to Fort Greely, Alaska.”
It’s there in the subarctic that Soldiers of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion man some of the deployed anti-intercontinental ballistic missile interceptors that form the backbone of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system. As the senior commander of both Fort Greely and RTS—which plays a major role in all GMD flight tests—Dickinson’s eagerness to put eyes on the Kwajalein Atoll element of the sweeping system was apparent.
The general led a viewing of the SMDC’s new command mission video, designed to provide an engaging five-minute overview of the agency’s current capabilities and emerging technology testing programs, and he said he was happy to see how often RTS sensors, facilities and personnel are featured in the video package. Everything from Kiernan Re-entry Measurement Site radars to the Kwajalein Mission Control Center make an appearance. It’s a reflection, Dickinson said, of the strategic importance of the test site and the hard work of the people who operate it.
“The mantra is that the sun never sets on SMDC/ARSTART,” Dickinson said. “That’s because we have Soldiers across 11 time zones and 22 different locations around the world. You are one of them.”
Dickinson also took a moment to reflect on not only the camaraderie of the people behind the Kwajalein Atoll mission, but also the quality of life available to those who live and work here.
“Coming out here, my impression is this is a great team,” he said. “Particularly with the seamlessness between the operations piece, the garrison piece, the testing piece and having families and programs here on the island to support all that. … You can come out here and spend an indefinite period of time … and have all of these creature comforts that you have [in such a remote place.]”
Dickinson ended his address to the Kwajalein community with an optimistic message, reflecting on mission and garrison funding and the recent transition of responsibilities for base oversight from the SMDC to the Installation Management Command.
“I’m your advocate, one of the advocates for the quality of life and mission support out here … And, again, it’s a very important job,” Dickinson said. “I think you’re on a great path with funding and some of the [transitions] that have occurred over the past year or so. So, I’m optimistic about your future, in terms of the strategic plan.”