For years, the Yakima Training Center has held great interest for me. It is the only military installation within 100 miles, unless you count the various National Guard Units or the Marine thingy with the tanks. And as most of you know, history is something that I find a little more than just mildly interesting. And, like most boys, I am more than a little interested in things that go BOOM!! So, knowing there is a lot of history out there AND that they make things go BOOM out there only makes it a place of MORE curiosity to me.
The YTC is within about 5 miles of the house, and I have, on more than one occasion, driven up to see what the racket was (sometimes you can hear the explosions from the house, in fact when I still lived with my parents, you could, at times, hear them pounding away at the center more than 25 miles distant, with at least three different ridges in the way, the acoustics must have been perfect or they were using something HUGE!). The way the area is made, though, it is on the other side of a ridge from us.
Over the years, I have seen a few interesting things from where it was legal to be(I say this, because I have been known to push boundaries at places like Mare Island and such, but never the YTC). Back shortly after the build up for Afghanistan and Iraq began, they held some exercises for the men at Fort Lewis. They parks a half-dozen 155mm howitzer type things out next to the freeway. If you pulled off the road you had the opportunity to see some MAJOR booms! A few seconds later the shell would detonate on a hill side about five miles away, maybe more, in a giant puff of dust, smoke, and debris. The sound alone, over the noise of the traffic whizzing by at 70mph was impressive!
Then, one day, I was driving along and saw an aircraft with straight wings flying from the YTC toward the West. The airspace is closed off to civil air traffic, and I wondered to myself how much trouble this guy was going to be in. On my next opportunity, I looked again...only it wasn't a civil aircraft. it was an A-10 Thunderbolt II anti-tank aircraft! This thing is built around a 30mm canon, which weighs more than a Volkswagon Bug (And is longer, too!)! There were two of them, and they were making runs on the targets at the YTC!! I stopped and watched from a great distance, still, the binoculars allowed be to see the smoke from the canon when he let go!! AWESOME!
I have seen enormous convoys of the Army's Strykers...those eight-wheeled monsters that pack troops, an all-terrain-vehicle, and significant firepower into one water-proof attack package. They can mount any number of cool modern destructive weapons on those things!
I have seen flares ignited at night...floating earthward in an spooky orange dazzling spectacle. I have seen a few of the huge Abrams tanks they have out there. I have heard many stories about the place. It is just cool that we have such a place within a few miles and everybody just ignores the awesomeness of it all!
So, today, in just a few minutes, actually, I am going to drive up and meet the historian/archeologist for the installation and he is going to take me to a couple of the wreck sites. With luck, this will only be the first of several forays into this military wilderness in my back yard. I hope to take pictures of the crash site of at least one of the aircraft in question. I also hope to learn a little more about this place that remains hidden by hills and ridges from the prying eyes of those of us curious enough to look.
This is the kind of thing I like to do. I know other men go out and hunt animals or go to sports arenas, but this is my thing. Something I rarely get to do, and something that is very interesting and more than a little fun! I might not be normal...but normal is just too boring for me.