SMDC Commander Briefs Kwajalein Community

During a speaking event Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the KHS Multi-Purpose Room on Kwajalein, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, addresses Reagan Test Site personnel, U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll Command staff, DOD civilians, Kwajalein residents, off-island visitors and the U.S. Ambassador to the RMI.

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.”



Did you know you can see another galaxy with the naked eye from the Marshall Is­lands during this time of the year? It’s the Andromeda Galaxy, aka M31. At 2. 5 million light years away it’s the most distant object visible to the unaided eye, especially during times of little or no moonlight.

It lives in the constellation Andromeda, which sits high in the night sky at 8 p.m. this time of year. Look directly north (or more toward the west if it’s a later time during the night) for the easy-to-spot constellation Cassiopeia, which looks like a semi-flattened “m.” You can’t miss Cassiopeia. Look further “upward” above Cassiopeia, and you’ll find Andromeda. Its principal structure con­sists (mostly) of one long arc of five bright stars (and some dimmer ones) stretching east to west overtop Cassiopeia. The length of the constellation is about double that of Cassiopeia. At this time of night, it connects into the bottom right of a large square-shaped constellation called Pegasus.

Now that Andromeda’s arching line of stars is located, look back down to Cassiopeia. The left “ ” of Cassiopeia forms a triangle that points almost di­rectly up to one of those bright stars in the arch of Andromeda. That’s Mirach. The Andromeda Galaxy is located “down and to the left” a few degrees from Mirach. You can actually follow a trail of two stars shooting downward and leftward from Mirach, tak­ing you directly to M31.

It’s not going to look like much to the naked eye, but if you avert your eyes away from the galaxy’s location you’ll be able to use your eye’s more sen­sitive rod cells to suck up more light than by look­ing directly at the target. You should see a small smudge of light.

It’s highly recommended you bring out a pair of binoculars. With even bargain optics, M31 will look much more impressive, with a more defined, light emitting core and a considerably long halo. That halo comprises the arms of the spiral struc­ture surrounding it. Binoculars bonus: Scoot your binoculars a little further “downward” from M31, and you’ll see an even smaller smudge of light. That’s M32, a dwarf elliptical satellite galaxy orbiting M31. It’s nothing compared to the An­dromeda Galaxy, with a length of approximately 220,000 light years and one trillion stars—or roughly double the size and mass of the Milky Way.

Fun fact: M31 is coming right for us. Astrono­mers predict the Andromeda Galaxy will slam into the Milky Way in about 4.5 billion years, forever changing the structures of each galaxy.