It may have the look of war, the sound of war and some of the danger of war, but the warlike action in the Oquirrh Mountains and Utah's West Desert is really Firex '88.
Scores of howitzers and other large artillery pieces began lobbing shells through the hills Thursday morning in the first day of firing in the full-scale Firex artillery exercise.National Guard and Army Reserve artillery and support units have been in place at Camp Williams, Tooele Army Depot and Dugway Proving Ground since Monday in a live-fire exercise billed as the largest of its kind ever conducted by reserve forces.
Some 14,000 artillery troops and 3,000 additional support personnel are stationed in encampments in the Oquirrhs and the West Desert, along with 1,453 pieces of artillery equipment, jeeps, trucks and other military hardware.
Artillery units will change positions frequently during the two-week exercise, with multiple-battery units of 12 to 18 guns each firing about 100 shells daily during the first several firing days of the exercise. The units starting the exercise at Camp Williams will ultimately migrate 90 miles west, where the most intensive firing activity is scheduled to take place Monday through Wednesday.
Some 39 batteries of four to six guns each will pound away around the clock at Dugway Proving Ground targets next week, with the most intensive firing activity scheduled at 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to public affairs Lt. Brent Andersen.
Artillery troops will have fired an estimated 12,000 rounds by the time the exercise is over.
Missiles and bombs released from helicopter gunships and more than 100 F-16 and A-10 aircraft will add to the intensity of the firing exercise.
"It's the largest live fire (exercise) because we not only have more artillery than anybody's ever fired, but we've got all the high performance aircraft," said Brig. Gen. James M. Miller, commander of I Corps Artillery and Firex director.