Next week’s test firing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System will not necessarily mean routine training there will be approved, base officials say.
If the test goes well, the military still must do an environmental impact study on the effects of making the training routine at JBLM, and it would seek additional public comment.
That means it would be a year or two before training could happen here.
And should the JBLM training be approved, it likely still will be split between Yakima and the Pierce County base.
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Some Yakima trips still would be necessary because the area where units could fire from at JBLM would be more limited than the Central Washington location, where they have five or six spots to choose from.
Of the 288 rockets used each year, about half probably would be fired at each location, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Schmidt said.
The ones fired at JBLM would be launched in two to four sessions a year, each probably taking a few days, the base estimates.
Moving at least some of that training closer to home would be convenient and cheaper, Schmidt said. Each training trip to Yakima costs about $227,000.
“For us, the benefit is truly not having to make that trip over the mountains,” he said.
A normal training takes between 10 days and two weeks. If it happened at JBLM, soldiers could spend weekends at home, which Schmidt said is a big deal for a family potentially facing deployment.
Also, the five to six hours spent driving over Snoqualmie Pass can be dangerous with military vehicles, he said. They can’t go 70 mph like regular vehicles can, and sometimes are sideswiped by impatient motorists, he said.
Weather can be an issue as well.