Kilili: Military should let people observe Tinian live-fire training

Aug 31, 2016

Marianas Variety U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has asked U.S. Pacific Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield to give the CNMI people a chance to observe live-fire training on Tinian.

In his Aug. 25, 2016 letter to Crutchfield, Kilili said, “I believe that ultimately we owe it to the people we represent to try to provide them with the opportunity to observe the reality of what they are being asked to live with on a sustained basis, rather than simply report to them our own impressions of the noise and other repercussions of artillery fire under circumstances that may not be at all comparable to those on Tinian and Saipan.”

He said he also made the same recommendation verbally to a number of military officials over the years.

“But now I think the time has come to present it formally to you, as the point person for the CJMT [CNMI Joint Military Training]. As part of the public-education process and to provide a reality-based public response to the noise impacts that can be expected to accompany the proposed training, please consider conducting sustained demonstration firing practice under a variety of weather conditions on Tinian,” Kilili said.

“Give the people of Tinian and Saipan the opportunity to judge for themselves whether this activity would be an acceptable addition to their lives.”

Kilili said as part of the military’s effort to inform the people of Tinian and the rest of the NMI about the impact of the CJMT,   I urge you to consider conducting “live-fire demonstrations this year on Tinian, using exactly the types of artillery that are envisioned under the CJMT and at a rate and duration of fire that would be representative of the proposed training tempo.”

Kilili said “one of the concerns of my constituents about the CJMT is noise.”

He added, “Both Tinian and Saipan have tourism-based economies; and tourists typically come to tropical islands to escape the din of daily life in more developed environments. Tranquility and the relaxing sounds of nature are valuable resources that our islands need to preserve to protect our tourist trade.”

Kilili said his “constituents are also concerned about the impact of noise from proposed live-fire training on their daily lives, on their households and the general community. Noise — particularly loud noise occurring with random intermittency — has been associated with impaired hearing, reduced productivity, sleep disturbance, annoyance, and other physical and psychological effects.”

But the actual impact of live-fire artillery training on Tinian is, at this point, largely speculative, he added.

“The placement of artillery and impact zones within the topography of the island, weather conditions, and noise mitigation measures that the military may employ are variables whose effects cannot be well understood without direct observation and experimentation.”

In order to better understand the potential impact of live artillery fire on his constituents, Kilili said he traveled to the Quantico Ranges and Training Areas in Northern Virginia last year to observe a howitzer being fired.

While he was impressed by the professionalism and efficiency of the gun crew he met, and the safety procedures they demonstrated, Kilili said he could not easily translate the experience of seeing five rounds fired off in that setting to what the people on Tinian might experience during a sustained training operation.

“Two of the rounds failed to explode on impact, air temperatures were 40 degrees lower than they would be on Tinian, and the rolling landscape was wooded. In addition, although my escorts at Quantico assured me that surrounding populations were not adversely affected by the noise and concussion of live-fire activities, this was not the story I heard in casual conversation with civilians in the area — and Quantico is twice as large as Tinian,” Kilili said.