The commanding general of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord said Wednesday he was “very pleased” with a series of recent rocket-system tests at the Pierce County base and that the Army is making plans to hold more small-scale exercises and training sessions there.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza told a group of local reporters that holding more training at JBLM as opposed to the Yakima Training Center improved Army readiness and saved taxpayers’ dollars.
The Army is planning more squad- and platoon-sized exercises at JBLM that would involve training with small arms, mortars and artillery as well as aircraft, Lanza said.
“Doing more of this at home station really enhances our ability to train and deploy,” said Lanza, speaking by telephone from Washington, D. C., where he was attending the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
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It also would save the Army money and hassle by eliminating the need to move troops and equipment from JBLM to the branch’s sweeping Yakima Training Center, he said.
“It’s really an issue of costs,” Lanza said.
The general went on to say the Yakima Training Center will continue to figure into the Army’s plans, especially as the site for larger scale exercises involving numerous units and international partners.
“The future of the YTC is alive and well,” Lanza said. “That’s a significant resource for us.”
Last week’s testing of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, also known at HIMARS, at JBLM drew mixed reviews from neighbors of the base.
Some people who live nearby said noise from the 27 test rounds fired over three days wasn’t worse than rounds from howitzer routinely fired into the base’s Artillery Impact Area, west of Roy.
Others, including members of the Nisqually Tribe, complained that the HIMARS tests were so loud as to be disruptive.
The Army traditionally has trained with HIMARS at the Yakima Training Center but is mulling the prospect of moving that training to JBLM.
Lanza said Wednesday he is awaiting an analysis of noise levels from off and on the base before recommending a course of action, but that initial readings showed those levels below the 130 decibels recommended by the Army Public Health Center.
The general said he planned to share the results of that analysis with local government officials and tribal leaders before determining “what’s in the realm of the possible and how we move forward in the future.”
Lanza, whose more than two-year stint as I Corps commander likely will end in the next few months, told reporters he was confident about the future of JBLM, even as national leaders consider military drawdowns in the wakes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The base is uniquely positioned to deploy Army and Air Force assets to the Pacific Rim and other international hot spots and enjoys great support from the regional congressional delegation and local communities, he said.
“Of course, everything is predicated on sequestration, but, right now, I feel very good about where we’re at,” Lanza said.