The 14,000 artillery soldiers and 3,000 support soldiers participating in the upcoming FIREX `88 will shell Utah's western desert in a battle exercise that simulates war in Korea.
The exercise is being billed as the largest of its kind ever and will test how well the Army Reserve and National Guard I Corps troops could deploy to their designated battle area on the Korean peninsula."It will be the equivalent of being offloaded in Pusan in southern Korea and getting up to the front," Utah Adjutant Gen. John L. Matthews told business leaders at a Tuesday Rotary luncheon in Salt Lake City.
Equipment has already started arriving at Tooele Army Depot by rail for the exercise, which will run June 11 to 26.
"There's a lot of excitement about this exercise in the Department of Defense," Matthews said, because of the military's increasing dependence on reserve components. "This is an attempt to see whether or not the war plans, as designed, will work," he said, adding the military hasn't had good tests to see how well reserve forces could be deployed in a large-scale mobilization.
"We're hopeful that (FIREX) will not only be successful but that we'll find out a lot of things that we don't now know in planning for this type of activity in the future."
The performance of each unit will be evaluated individually, as will the exercise as a whole. Additional large-scale exercises, in Utah or elsewhere, could be planned if Army officials deem FIREX a success, Matthews said.
Military officials come to Utah each year for a "Cabin Fever" exercise during which deployment plans are discussed. "It's one thing to talk about an operation like that, but it's quite another thing to pull it off," Matthews said. "FIREX has been in planning for about three years."
Shells from some 250 artillery pieces will cause a commotion residents miles from the test range will hear during the exercise. The state will realize a $28 million economic impact as well, Matthews said, mostly from the purchase of foods and other supplies needed to ready the area for the exercise.