Equipment for the largest military exercise conducted by U.S. artillery troops since the end of World War II will be arriving in Utah next week.
More than 14,000 soldiers from as far away as Pennsylvania are scheduled to participate in the exercise, called FIREX88, which is scheduled to take place June 11 through 26 at Dugway Proving Ground, Tooele Army Depot and Camp Williams.The troops will be testing their ability to mobilize equipment and deploy to a battle zone, which for these soldiers would be in Korea. They will also test their skill in coordinating firing missions and redeploying to their home stations.
Salt Lake-based I Corps Artillery, under the command of Brig. Gen. James L. Miller of Cedar City, will control the exercise. Reservists and National Guard troops from many states will be participating, as will active-duty Army units from Fort Lewis, Wash., Fort Ord, Calif., and Fort Sill, Okla.
Miller spent most of March in Korea, and Army reserve troops will be deploying there later this summer for annual summer training. But the Utah exercise will allow the Army to conduct a large-scale exercise. "Instead of doing this training in little bits and pieces, we can train together on our wartime mission at very little increase in tax dollars," he said.
Utah's western desert was chosen as the site for FIREX88 because the Army already has firing ranges at Camp Williams and Dugway, and because of the two ranges' proximity to the Tooele Army Depot.
The artillery exercise is divided into three phases. First, individual units will arrive in Utah and establish field encampments between June 12 and 15 on Bureau of Land Management property south of TAD.
Next, the units will conduct live-fire exercises at Camp Williams and Dugway between June 16 and 22. Units will start with defensive operations, practicing moving to new training areas and then conducting an attack. Dugway will serve as the front line. The exercise has been designed to simulate battlefield conditions in Korea.
As a safety precaution, only ammunition that has been approved for use over the heads of troops in the field will be used, according to information released by the Utah Army National Guard.
The third phase of the exercise will involve moving the units back to the assembly areas used in the first phase, then packing for home.
Because the exercise involves the use of live ammunition, a safety plan and an environmental assessment have been prepared by the Army.
In addition to the combat units participating in the exercise, units handling food, communications, security, medical help, traffic control, air and ground ambulance and other support areas will also participate.
Almost every Utah National Guard unit will be participating in the exercise in some way. Engineer units will be responsible for preparing roads and firing sites, and for repairing training areas and restoring the environment after the exercise is over.
The Utah National Guard's 19th Special Forces Group will instruct artillery units on defending a rear battle area, and then will serve as aggressors to test the units' ability to defend their perimeter.