The last of 483 rail cars loaded with artillery equipment was unloaded at the Tooele Army Depot Tuesday for use in the largest artillery exercise ever conducted by the U.S. military.
Altogether, 1,453 pieces of artillery equipment, jeeps, trucks, troop carriers and other military hardware, have been shipped from other states to Tooele Army Depot for use in Firex '88, a live-fire exercise that will involve 17,000 combat and support troops.The troops, many of them Army reservists and members of the Army National Guard on their two-week summer training, will arrive Saturday to simulate a large-scale mobilization to Korea in an exercise that involves virtually every kind of combat and support unit that would be deployed in the event of war, said Brig. Gen. James M. Miller, commander of I Corps artillery in the Utah National Guard.
The exercise is so large that it has been three years in preparation, and so detailed that if it resembled an actual deployment any better the entire exercise would have been classified, Miller said.
Miller said enough different units from several branches of the military wanted to participate in the exercise that Firex could be conducted three times using different troops each time. Guard soldiers and reservists from 20 states will be arriving for Firex. Cavalry gunships from three surrounding states and 104 jets will be shooting missiles from the air while the artillery troops shell their targets from the ground.
Tooele Project Officer Maj. Bob Hunter said the depot will be providing about 12,000 rounds of artillery ammunition for the exercise, but Army personnel have been counting items besides guns and shells.
Miller said that on each day of the exercise, which continues through June 23, about 51,000 meals will be served, about 100,000 gallons of fuel will be burned and 300,000 gallons of water will be consumed.
Complete units handling postal, legal, military police, laundry, communications and other support aspects of the exercise will also be operational on the exercise range, which includes Camp Williams, Tooele Army Depot, Dugway Proving Ground and some Bureau of Land Management acreage.
The concern for safety is great enough that the 144th Evacuation Hospital will be fully operational during the exercise. Statistics from previous exercises indicate between seven and nine soldiers could be killed during Firex because of the nature of the exercise, the number of people involved and the length of time they will be in the field. Miller said officers involved in planning Firex have spent months developing exhaustive safety procedures.
Public affairs personnel will also be publishing a newspaper each day of the exercise so updates, safety precautions and other information can be circulated to the troops, who will remain in the field during the entire exercise.
Miller said Utah was chosen for the exercise because of the large terrain already owned by the military, and because deploying troops to Utah involves many of the same procedures that would be used in a mobilization to Korea.
Military officers from across the nation and from Japan will be observing Firex, and a sizable contingent of out-of-state media has already sought credentials to attend the exercise.
The noise and dust generated by Firex is expected to carry for miles.