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Sound impact unknown

JBLM answers questions on upcoming missile training - impact won't be known until tests conducted

Photo credit: Gary Lott

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New things can bring uncertainty, especially if it's a new missile being launched near your own backyard.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (or JBLM) recently announced that it would fire up to 27 high-speed rockets over a three-day period at JBLM in March.

The local community had an opportunity to ask questions and hear details about the firing of 27 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) Reduced Range Practice Rockets (RRPR) during an open house held at the Eagle's Pride Golf Course Conference Room on Tuesday.

Reoccurring questions being asked were: who would be impacted, how loud will it be, how many sound sensors are there, how big will the explosion be and who do I contact if I'm impacted?

Specifically, all who would be impacted by the sound and how loud exactly (less than 130 decibals expected) the launching would be is uncertain until after the actual test launches; but the answers to how big the explosion (none), how many sound sensors (20) and who to contact to provide feedback to (contact info below) were all answered during the open house.

There were large information poster boards, U.S. Army officers, public affairs representatives, servicemembers that train with these weapons, and even an actual M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), or light multiple rocket launcher mounted on an Army Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV), available for the public to learn more.

This first-of-its-kind training, held on JBLM, will use the traditional Mobility Artillery Rocket System Reduced Range Practice Rockets (RRPR) that are used by the 1st battalion (HIMARS), 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade at the Yakima Training Center.

"The RRPR round costs around $7,000 and the GMLRS (Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System) round that we're using in combat costs around $110,000," said CW2 Harry Morgan.

The training round can travel up to 50 kilometers, while the GMLRS rounds have a range of 46 miles.

There's no need to move 47 miles away from JBLM just yet.

"We will never, ever, fire the real thing here," said CW2 Morgan.

The importance of this training held on JBLM is all about readiness and the soldier.

"My commander has to be able to put qualified crews, at a moment's notice, anywhere in our area of operation because we're the only ones," said CW2 Morgan.  "That brings up a readiness issue for us because the crew's a three-man crew."

Especially now with the current state of military drawdowns and cutbacks, having a three-man crew arises issues for JBLM.

"We have the vehicle commander, we have the gunner and the driver," said CW2 Morgan.  "If any one of those three people leave, like they PCS (Permanent Change of Station) and move, it's an unqualified crew and they have to shoot again."

The current training schedule for the 17th Field Artillery Brigade is every six months at YTC: which could leave an unqualified crew waiting for months to be trained and ready for combat.

"When you look at Big Army, the Nation, and the budget, you hear that we have to draw down so many troops and our budget's getting cut," said CW2 Morgan.  "So we're looking for ways to save money and retain the type of guys we want."

There's a big impact on tax payer's pockets too.

"Roughly one million dollars a year could be saved if my two battalion commanders can shoot here on JBLM just for crew qualifications."

There might not be a long list of those living near their duty station that enjoy the time and gas that it takes to travel to the Yakima Training Center, or YTC, so this potential training location change could free up a lot of time at home for servicemembers.

"The cost it takes us, the time it takes us to go to Yakima and we're also competing against other units (training at Yakima)," said CW2 Morgan.  "It would make my commander's job easier, and to stay at his highest level of readiness for this Nation, to be able to qualify single-crews here."

Servicemembers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade travel to YTC for a month to qualify and overtime can take a toll on anyone, even qualified, dedicated servicemembers.

"Holidays are missed, (child) births are missed, time is missed, and that's all part of the job, but if we can retain our soldiers and make them happier, all while saving money, then why wouldn't we?"

Even if a single complaint isn't filed it would still likely be years before all signs are a go for qualification training to be held on JBLM, due to the immense amount of research to be conducted after this initial test.

Clearly, the neighbors of JBLM should be interested in how much noise will come from this training but JBLM officials are expecting the sound volume to be more welcomed than the artillery rounds being fired.

However, servicemembers and taxpayers just might have even more reason to have their focus aimed on the noise (results) from these Reduced Range Practice Rockets being launched.

There may remain an uncertainty of exactly how loud this will be for neighboring communities of JBLM, but one thing is for certain, JBLM plans to remain transparent and is counting on the public to inform them on any questions they may have, and more importantly, what you hear or don't hear.

During the Reduced Range Practice Rockets test firing, citizens are welcome to view the live web link (JBLM Social Media/Website), as well as provide feedback by calling the JBLM hotline at 253.967.0852 or by sending an email to

Launch Schedule & RRPR Characteristics provided by JBLM Public Affairs:
March 15, 16 and 17 (Tuesday-Thursday)

  • 10 a.m. Three rockets fired at 10-15 minute intervals
  • 2 p.m. Three rockets fired at 10-15 minute intervals
  • 7 p.m. Three rockets fired at 10-15 minute intervals

Reduced Range Practice Rocket (RRPR) Characteristics:

  • Inert: does not carry any explosives
  • All fuel is expended within 2-3 seconds after launch; rocket will be an empty shell on impact
  • Rockets reach supersonic speed in about one second; remain supersonic for about 3.7 miles
  • Range of 5-9 miles; rockets will land in the artillery impact area in about 5-6 seconds
  • For the JBLM test firings, the rockets will reach an altitude of about 1,300 feet

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