The commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Thursday said this week’s test-firings of a rocket system on the Pierce County base went well.
“As of Thursday, all 27 rounds were fired safely and accurately with no reported issues,” Col. Daniel S. Morgan wrote in letter to South Sound news agencies concerning the testing of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, also known as HIMARS.
The rockets fired this week were reduced-range practice rockets, shot from the Hayes Hill Firing Point into the center of JBLM's Artillery Impact Area west of Roy. Each firing consisted of three rockets, fired at one time.
Sound monitors off base showed noise from the firings was below the maximum 130 decibels recommended by the U.S. Army Public Health Center, Morgan wrote.
Health center officials are compiling a report from that data that is expected to be completed in four to six weeks, he said. The report will help the Army decide whether to train soldiers on HIMARS at JBLM, he added.
Some people weren’t pleased, though. The Nisqually tribe tried to get the tests stopped, and others either wrote emails to the base, called or posted comments on social media, saying the noise was disruptive and harmful.
The base received nine emails and 18 phone calls regarding the noise. Two were supportive of the tests, but the others complained of the noise.
On Thursday, Richard Swanson, who lives in Rainier, described the noise as “very loud and disruptive.”
“I hear the munitions firing all the time, but it’s never been as loud as this stuff was,” said Swanson, 75, a retired teacher and building contractor. “Several of them actually rattled my house. And it freaks my dog out. My dog was just in a panic.”
Swanson said he thinks the Army should scrap a plan that could bring more HIMARS exercises to JBLM.
“They should go over to Yakima,” he said. “It seems to me that’s what a firing range is for.”
Others said it wasn’t so bad.
Several people commented on the JBLM Facebook page to say it wasn’t as bad as they expected. Maria Sales of north Yelm was one.
“Scared my dogs and toddler,” Sales wrote. “Overall, it was less nerve-wracking than the normal training.”
This week’s test-firing was the first time the Army has fired HIMARS at JBLM. Soldiers traditionally have trained on the system at the Yakima Training Center, a vast, remote property in central Washington.
The Army is considering moving the training to JBLM to reduce logistical hassles and travel costs.
Morgan said the tests culminated “a very deliberate, transparent and collaborative two-year process between JBLM and neighboring communities.”
Staff writers Lisa Pemberton and Randy McCarthy contributed to this report.