REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – As of early 2020, as COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the world, no cases have been reported in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. To protect the islands, the Marshall government suspended all incoming international travel, February 26, 2020, affecting US personnel arriving to work on the US Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll and US Army Missile Defense Command Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test. Site.
This decision presents a significant challenge to the US Army Soldier RTS team, civilians, and contractors tasked with supporting the Missile Defense Agency’s Flight Test Missile-44, a critical, time-sensitive, and congressional mandate test designed to evaluate the feasibility of Naval Standards. US. Block IIA’s Missile-3 capability to defeat intercontinental ballistic missile threats.
Life in Kwaj Got Hard –
Many of the 1,500 US personnel who live and work in Kwaj on year-long long-distance tours, which usually end at the start of each calendar year. Although a large number of personnel were allowed to return to the US when their tour ended, their replacement was denied entry. This resulted in a shortage of about 450 personnel at the base, about 30% below normal requirements. It also threatened to delay the FTM-44 beyond its mandate by 2020, putting pressure on the USASMDC garrison and leadership to find ways to get staff on the island to conduct flight tests and how to maintain the day-to-day function of the base.
The Role of the Army –
USAG-KA, subordinate to the US Army’s Installation Management Command, and RTS are working together to prioritize who will come to the island and in what order. However, this only happened after a deal had been negotiated with the Marshall government, which at the time was not a guarantee.
“These tests must be completed by 2020, and time is running out,” said Thomas Webber, director of the USASMDC Technical Center. “To provide ICBM-class targets in a scenario that includes Hawaiian defenses within the mandated schedule, Kwajalein is the only appropriate location for testing.”
Webber said May’s test flights were rescheduled to November to give participants time to develop, practice and implement a rigorous COVID-19 test and quarantine regimen that would meet the Marshall government’s need to protect the health of its citizens.
Garrison Plan –
The garrison quarantine and testing regimen requires all personnel to receive a COVID-19 test before leaving the continental United States, followed by a period of quarantine in Hawaii and a second test before leaving for Kwaj. On arrival at Kwaj, the personnel are quarantined for an additional 21 days, during which time they are not allowed to leave their residences. To minimize contact, including with quarantined personnel, all food and other essential items are delivered to their rooms.
After the Marshall government approved this plan, Kwajalein garrison commander Col. Jeremy Bartel started a series of open forum town halls across the atoll to gain the trust and support of the local population.
“My number one priority is to prevent COVID-19 from entering the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” Bartel told the Ebeye Island Council meeting, June 1. “My second priority is the safety of residents and workers, both US and Marshall, at USAG-KA and Ebeye. “
Bartel said that while many people acted as liaisons and provided critical advocacy for reaching travel concessions, nothing would have been possible without the support and involvement of US Ambassador to Marshall Islands Roxanne Cabral, Senator Marshall Mike Kabua and Kwajalein Mayor Atoll Hirata Kabua.
Bartel said the result of the collaboration was a one-time entry for the five most critical replacements in June, followed by an agreement for up to 15 personnel per week to come to Kwaj. That number includes personnel working for the garrison as well as those associated with the RTS and flight tests.
During this process, many US Army civilians and contractors worked long hours because of a labor shortage.
“A large number of our civilians and contractors offered to extend their tours knowing their replacement would not be available,” said Bartel. “Local national employees have also been critical so far because inter-island travel on Kwajalein Atoll has not been affected. We can always count on Marshall to keep our basic services operational and residents fed. “
Bartel said that although IMCOM is responsible for more than 75 garrisons around the world, they continue to support and advocate for Kwaj.
“IMCOM leaders and teams have never lost sight of supporting the needs of our remote Pacific garrison amid the pandemic,” said Bartel.
SMDC Provides Innovative Solutions –
USASMDC created a unique teleworking environment at the RTS Operations Center-Huntsville, which is located just outside Redstone Arsenal, to minimize the number of personnel they need to travel to Kwaj, said Webber.
“A number of personnel, including many from the safety contingent who normally go to the island, carry out their missions from the ROC-H,” Webber said. “In addition, several MDA missions that are normally carried out in Colorado are also carried out at ROC-H.”
ROC-H was founded in 2006 as an RTS Distributed Operations site. RDO enclaves can be temporarily created in a number of CONUS based locations but ROC-H is the only permanent RDO. This facility enables remote control of many RTS functions via a high-speed network, advanced algorithms and sensor control technology. With some modifications and the COVID-19 safety protocol, the ROC-H can accommodate 34 of the 120 personnel originally scheduled to be at Kwaj for testing.
No Additional Warranty for Target Missiles –
Unlike operational missiles which are generally designed for long-range storage and operation, target missiles such as those launched for the FTM-44 are never designed to be held for months.
“This target missile is built in Huntsville, is delivered to the site of its launch, and is typically deployed within a few months,” Webber said. “Moving the test date from March to November creates technical challenges regarding the missile’s internal battery.”
After several months on Meck Island, the internal batteries for the FTM-44 target missile needed to be recharged and tested to stay ready for a new launch date. Since members of the MDA Target Team, who would normally perform the procedures, are working at the ROC-H for this particular test, they must develop a procedure that will allow the on-site USASMDC personnel to perform maintenance.
“If the RTS team at Kwajalein does not manage to coordinate with the Target Team in Huntsville to recharge the missile’s lithium-polymer battery and the battery falls below a certain charge threshold, there really is nothing that can be done but to send the missiles back to Huntsville for their complete replacement. “Said Webber. “They managed to complete this twice, which is an important event to help keep the target vehicle on the island and in a condition where it can carry out the mission.”
Challenges Overcome –
The director of the Missile Defense Agency, Vice Admiral Jon Hill said the test fulfilled its primary purpose of demonstrating the ability of the Block IIA SM-3 missile to intercept ICBM targets.
“(This) is a step in the process of determining its eligibility as part of a multi-layered defense architecture in the country,” said Hill. “Congratulations to the entire testing team, including our military and industrial partners, who helped us achieve this milestone.”
Webber said that while the COVID-19 complications in Kwaj are still a factor today, the human-powered solutions developed by the IMCOM and USASMDC teams can be applied to future flight test operations.
“Whether that means extending tours away from loved ones, working long hours or developing creative solutions to the unique challenges of COVID-19 and FTM-44, the Kwaj garrison and USASMDC personnel ensure the launch will happen,” said Webber. “America’s anti-ICBM shield is now much stronger for their efforts.”
|Posted Date:||02.26.2021 13:19|
|Origin:||HUNTSVILLE, AL, USA|
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