The Army has announced a new timetable for tests of a mobile rocket system on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, an issue that has caused tension between the base and the Nisqually tribe.
JBLM officials announced this week that tests of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, also known as HIMARS, would take place Sept. 27-29.
Artillery commanders and other JBLM bosses chose those dates after consultation with Nisqually tribal leaders, said Joe Piek, a base spokesman.
Tribal chairman Farron McCloud said Wednesday that Nisqually leaders met with JBLM officials Tuesday and expressed their opposition to the tests. But the tribe is resigned that tests will go forward.
“There’s no stopping it,” McCloud said.
The HIMARS testing has been a source of friction between JBLM and its longtime neighbors for several months.
The tribe told The News Tribune earlier this summer that a series of test postponements and scheduling conflicts had left some members unhappy with the Army.
One such cancellation came in March after the tribe made arrangements to hold off-reservation activities so its members could avoid being home during the testing. The tribe spent about $80,000 on those activities, tribal leaders said.
A conflict arose in July when the Army’s last test schedule coincided with a ceremony to honor the late tribal leader Billy Frank Jr. The Army canceled those tests when the tribe objected.
Piek said the September dates appear to be the least disruptive to the tribe while fitting into the Army’s plans.
The schedule released this week calls for tests on:
▪ Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 9 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
▪ Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
▪ Thursday, Sept. 29 at 9 a.m.
Dates and times are subject to change and will be updated at facebook.com/JBLewisMcChord.
The unarmed practice rockets will be fired from the Hayes Hill Firing Point, and each firing will consist of three rockets, fired at one time. Rockets will be fired southeast into the center of JBLM’s Artillery Impact Area west of Roy, according to a JBLM news release.
McCloud said the tribal administration is preparing informational brochures it will distribute to the 200 to 300 people living on its reservation. The tribe also is making arrangements to temporarily move the elderly and couples with young children off the reservation during the testing.
The firings were delayed in the spring due to insufficient tree-top clearance at the firing point. Trees were removed to ensure a clear flight path for the rockets, officials say.
The Army’s request to train with HIMARS at JBLM has been controversial because the system produces more noise than artillery normally used on local military training grounds.
HIMARS rockets can create sonic booms in flight.
JBLM has two units that usually train with the weapon at the Yakima Training Center, but Army officials say there is potential cost savings by conducting those exercises closer to home.
McCloud said he thinks the Army should continue conducting the tests in Yakima.
“We’re going to see how this goes,” he said. “If it doesn’t go too good, we’re going to let them know about it.”