By Col. Daniel S. Morgan, Joint Base Lewis-McChord CommanderSeptember 30, 2016
This week, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade completed an artillery mission eight years in the making.
Tuesday through Thursday, the unit fired -- for the first time at Joint Base Lewis-McChord -- High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Reduced Range Practice Rockets so monitors could record the sound waves generated by firing these rockets.
As of Thursday, all 27 rounds were fired safely and accurately with no reported issues. More importantly, readings on the U.S. Army Public Health Center (Provisional) off-base sound monitors were below 130 decibels, the threshold recommended by the USAPHC in the January 2016 Environmental Assessment for the test firing, and agreed on with community partners to determine whether to proceed further with the tests after the first rounds were fired.
U.S. Army Public Health Center will use this sound data to prepare a complete report on the HIMARS Reduced Range Practice Rocket test. We expect the report's results to be completed in four to six weeks which will be used to inform a decision whether to integrate RRPR into the permanent training infrastructure in the future.
This week's sound-monitoring mission concluded a very deliberate, transparent and collaborative two-year process between JBLM and neighboring communities. From preparing the environmental assessment in 2015, to community open houses in August 2015 and March 2016, to community notifications ahead of this week's tests, JBLM strove to ensure local communities were part of the process.
I would like to especially thank the Nisqually Tribe for their cooperation and collaboration in finding a way to conduct the test that is so vitally linked to one of the principal weapons being used in overseas operations.
I would also like to thank the citizens of DuPont, Lacey, Yelm and Roy who -- in addition to the Nisqually Tribe -- were the people most likely to experience the new sound of the HIMARS practice rockets' firing at JBLM. We appreciate the open communication we have with leaders of these cities, and others, who help us keep their communities informed.
JBLM senior leaders understand that home-station military training has an impact on the local communities, to include day and nighttime artillery firing, helicopter and airplane overflights, and military convoys: it all has a cumulative effect. We ask much of our neighbors every day, and we truly appreciated the opportunity to move forward with these test launches, the end result is better prepared and ready Soldiers and systems to fight on behalf of our nation.
Moreover, we appreciate those in the community who provided us with feedback during the tests, either by phone, email or through social media. While collecting sound data was our stated goal, getting citizen feedback was important as well. Many people have commented the rocket launches weren't as bad as 155 mm artillery training, and not nearly as loud as they expected.
Finally, I would like to thank the Soldiers of 1-94 FA who conducted the test safely, along with our team of dedicated JBLM civilian employees, plus the professionals at Washington State Patrol and the Washington Department of Transportation, who all played important roles in supporting our Soldiers' successful completion of this mission.
Trust, transparency, open communication and collaboration and patience were the key ingredients in making this week's HIMARS practice rocket test-firing meaningful. But it doesn't stop here.
Once we get the HIMARS Reduced Range Practice Rocket test report we'll review the results, and again collaborate with our community partners to determine whether we move forward toward future HIMARS crew certification firing at JBLM.