Tree Clearance Delays JBLM Rocket Tests This Week

Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is postponing a Tuesday test firing of artillery practice rockets because of concerns they might not be able to clear the trees.

The test of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) was first announced last August. It took months to plan the launch at the Hayes Hill site east of Interstate 5, near Dupont, to determine noise levels in nearby communities.

The tests called for the firing of 27 rockets over a three-day period, and about 1 acre of trees already had been removed from the firing site.

The decision to delay the tests came after a "fire-control computer" indicated during a Friday rehearsal that more tree clearance was needed to ensure the rockets could be fired safely and accurately, according to a statement released by base public affairs.

The 17th Field Artillery Brigade now trains on the rocket system at the Yakima Training Center. The Army has proposed moving the training to JBLM to reduce travel costs, and to make it easier for soldiers to gain certification on the rocket system.

The proposal has raised concerns from some who live near the base, including the Nisqually Indian Tribe.

"It should be noted that the Nisqually Tribe ... staunchly objects to moving the HIMARS training from the Yakima Training Center to JBLM because of effects on our community, our homeland, our cultural resources, and our natural resources,'' says a written comment from the tribe submitted to the Army this past August.

"The Nisqually community is bordered on all sides by JBLM and is constantly subjected to explosions, machine-gun fire, and air-traffic training which includes helicopters and low-flying aircraft noise at all hours."

The Army is planning to test-fire the practice rockets and then analyze the noise decibels they create at off-base locations equipped with monitors. That information will be used to help the Army decide whether to go ahead with the switch in training from Yakima to JBLM.

Army officials say the earliest the JBLM tests could occur would be next week.

"The base will only conduct the tests when they can be done safely and accurately, thereby protecting the surrounding communities" and the soldiers conducting the tests, the JBLM statement says.

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