The first round of the Army’s long-anticipated rocket test at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a dud.
After months of public outreach to prepare South Sound communities for a new kind of artillery training, the Army on Monday postponed for at least a week a series of rocket tests it planned at JBLM.
The Army still wants to conduct a test of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at JBLM and it plans to reschedule the three-day exercise, base officials said.
But before it can shoot HIMARS training rounds, JBLM has to do more work to clear treetops near its artillery firing point for the 675-pound projectiles that would be launched from the weapon.
The setback further delays a test the Army has wanted to conduct at JBLM since 2009. It’s intended to gauge whether the suburban communities around JBLM can live with a kind of artillery training that normally takes place at the Yakima Training Center in central Washington.
The Army since August has held two public forums to answer questions about the weapon test, which will be most noticeable to residents of DuPont, Lacey, Roy and Yelm.
JBLM took care to make the public aware about the tests. Earlier this month, it published a schedule detailing when it would fire 27 separate rounds over a three-day window.
JBLM also has held several meetings with members of the Nisqually tribe, agreeing to requests to place sound-monitoring devices at 11 locations on the tribe’s reservation.
JBLM called the tribe early Monday to give its leadership notice that the testing would be delayed. The tribe sent a letter to the Army in August declaring its opposition to the HIMARS test. It requested a full environmental impact study if the Army decides to pursue year-round HIMARS training.
“We wrote them a letter about how much we disagreed with it, and that (the rockets) should stay in Yakima where they belong, in a desert,” said tribal chairman Farron McCloud. “They said they’re going to go ahead and do it anyway.”
This week, the tribe had planned to give children and elders a break from the noise it anticipated during the HIMARS exercise.
Tribal chairman Farron McCloud said the tribe booked a retreat for elders and found off-reservation sites for its day cares. He estimated the tribe spent $76,000 on off-reservation bookings this week.
“We’re going to certainly bill JBLM for all of this,” he said.
He said the tribe is highly concerned with potential noise from the tests.
“There’s going to be 27 blasts, and that’s going to be a little much for our elders, our veterans and our little ones,” McCloud said. “It’s just been a difficult time because we have no clue how loud they’re going to be.”