Nitijela calls Bartel to honor

President Kabua, Speaker Kedi, the entire Nitijela membership, Kwajalein Mayor Hirata Kabua and other officials joined with Col. Jeremy Bartel and US Ambassador Roxanne Cabral. Photo: Giff Johnson.

GIFF JOHNSON

Col. Jeremy Bartel was called to honor by Nitijela Monday in what Speaker Kenneth Kedi said was an unprecedented ceremony in the chamber.

Bartel flew into Majuro Monday for the ceremony in the Chamber and was joined by US Ambassador Roxanne Cabral for the event.

The Nitijela session started off as usual with roll call and preliminaries, but quickly shifted to skipping ahead to the resolution section of the agenda to allow the Chamber to address Resolution 41 honoring Bartel, who is scheduled to depart USAG-KA in early July.

Speaker Kedi, speaking from his dais, told Bartel and Cabral who were seated nearby that the resolution was a demonstration of the RMI’s “unwavering” support of and partnership with the United States.

Nitijela Member after Nitijela Member heaped praise on Bartel for his work with the RMI on Covid protection and the RMI government’s repatriation program that USAG-KA is supporting.

With that as the “big picture” reason for the recognition, numerous MPs chimed in to offer their take on Bartel’s impact on US-RMI relations during his nearly two-year tenure as the Army’s base commander.

Majuro MP Brenson Wase praised Bartel for coming to Majuro multiple times and taking the time to repeatedly meet with leaders and landowners of Majuro to explain the Army’s repatriation operation so that people were fully briefed and had the opportunity to get their questions answered.

Majuro MP and Army veteran Kalani Kaneko said Bartel was instrumental in supporting establishment of the new American Legion post in Majuro that is supporting the needs of Marshallese veterans who served in the US military.

Mejit MP Dennis Momotaro praised Bartel for his support of the Marshall Islands repatriation program, through USAG-KA, that has allowed families to be reunited at home after months of being stranded in the US.

Health Minister Bruce Bilimon said simply that Bartel did his best to help the people of the Marshall Islands. “You’re a very important part of our Covid success story,” said Bilimon.

Majuro MP Tony Muller said he was not going to repeat Bartel’s many accomplishments that others had shared. Instead, he said he wanted to mention only one: The Micronesian Games. He thanked Bartel for his engagement with the government and the National Olympic Committee in discussions for USAG-KA to host the swimming portion of the Micronesian Games to be held in RMI in the summer of 2022.

“We don’t recall another colonel to appear before Nitijela for recognition,” said Foreign Minister Casten Nemra. “It is rare indeed.” Nemra described Bartel as a professional who didn’t sugar coat his discussions. But in partnership with Bartel, “there was always a way, a solution,” said Nemra.

Kwajalein MP David Paul was called up to the front to present brief remarks on behalf of the Kwajalein leadership. “When you assumed command of the US Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll back in July of 2019, the world we knew then has completely and manifestly transformed into a world we are all still trying to navigate and comprehend,” Paul said. “Covid-19 is the cause of this. These are extraordinary times which require extraordinary leadership and it takes an extraordinary human being to rise to the occasion to be a reliable and dependable partner during these challenging and trying times.”

Paul said relations and cooperation between the American and Marshallese communities at Kwajalein Atoll are “at an all time high” because of Bartel’s leadership.

In addition to a new power cable going in between Roi Namur and Third Island, Paul said the RMI’s repatriation scheme in partnership with the Army is “a resounding success” that offers a blueprint for other nations like RMI. The repatriation operation “requires bold and decisive leadership and you played a pivotal role in it.” Paul wrapped up by praising Bartel for gaining the resumption of air freight delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables from Guam, which he said “will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest accomplishment of all — we are talking about the health of our people residing on Ebeye.”

In another break with tradition, Speaker Kedi instructed Clerk Morean Watak to read Resolution 41 in its entirety. Usually the announcement of bills and resolutions on the floor is limited to a reading of their titles only. The resolution expressed the “deep gratitude” of the government and people of RMI to Col. Bartel for his tremendous support and commitment to protecting lives and providing essential services during the ongoing national response to Covid-19.

Often resolutions are approved by voice vote only. In this case, MP Paul requested a roll call vote, which allowed each member to cast their “Aet” (yes) vote and many took the opportunity to further recognize Bartel in brief comments or simply look across the chamber to him and say, “thank you Col. Bartel.” The result? Resolution 41 passed unanimously, 29-0.

Speaker Kedi then recessed the session to allow for the MPs to join with Col. Bartel and Ambassador Cabral for photographs, followed by a sumptuous lunch in the Nitijela conference room.

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