TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - “I donate to this cause every single year,” said Mira Kozell, quality assurance, Combat Center commissary. “If each person could just donate one item each time they …
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The first firework soars through the darkness as the Twentynine Palms community watches in anticipation from lawn chairs, vehicle rooftops, and grassy areas of Luckie Park. The firework explodes and color fizzes into the night sky marking the beginning of the fireworks show, a proud, traditional, celebration of independence and freedom.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - “It is not just a game, it is a way of life. There are few places you will go where the game is not celebrated. It goes by many names, soccer, futbol, football, but no matter what the people around you call it, it is beautiful. If you make the ball happy, I promise you, no matter what, you and the people around you, will be happy.”
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - All hands aboard the Combat Center gathered at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray field to witness a historic moment in Combat Center history as Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, former Combat Center Commanding General, formally relinquished his command to Maj. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, Combat Center Commanding General, in a change of command ceremony, July 10, 2014.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Lt. Col. Daniel Wittnam relinquished command of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, to Lt. Col. Ross Parrish during a change of command ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, July 2.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - After attending Chapman University and receiving her bachelor’s degree in social sciences, Jennifer Casas worked as a corrections officer at the County of Riverside Juvenile Hall for three years. She would go on to attend Chapman for her master’s degree in psychology all while enlisted in the Air Force Reserve for 14 years with six being Active Reserve status. Casas is currently a knowledge operations officer, communications master sergeant and serving as the alternate installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator aboard the Combat Center.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Marines, sailors, distinguished guests, families and friends of Headquarters Battalion gathered to watch as Lt. Col Michael A. Bowers, former commanding officer, HQBN, relinquished command to Lt. Col. Dennis A. Sanchez, commanding officer, HQBN, during a change of command ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, July 2, 2014.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Preparing Marines for survival in mountainous terrain and high elevations is what the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center is known for. Although the mission of the base remains the same throughout the years, leadership and personnel will change and uphold the standard set by those who came before.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Fighters entered the cage as equals, but would leave as one winner and one loser. A crowd of several hundred Marines, sailors and family members watched as the fighters touched gloves, and almost immediately, the faster of the two seized the opportunity to strike, beating down his opponent as the crowd roared. His arm was held high by the announcer as he is declared the victor. The next pair of fighters prepare for their bout, declaring Summer Fight Night had returned in full swing.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The sun was shining and the smell of barbeque was in the air. Children played in the splash park and admired the tactical vehicles on display at the Joshua Tree Summer Splash at the Joshua Tree Community Park, Saturday, but then, an announcement was made, “5 minutes until the next event.” Everyone gathered, the families waited patiently and listened to the Marines introduce themselves. After the introduction concluded, a child stood up, raised his hand and politely asked, “May I pet the puppy?” The Combat Center’s Provost Marshal’s Office K9 division and Combat Logistics Battalion 7 participated in the event. The Marines taught families about the tactical vehicles on display and performed a K9 demonstration. “I love doing demonstrations,” said Sgt. Daniel Andrzejewski, K9 training chief, PMO. “It’s always great to come out and do this. These events are always a great time for families and we like to add to that.” The Summer Splash was a free family event open to everyone. Along with the tactical vehicle static display and the K9 demonstration, there were booths and other events being held by the local community. There was a dunk tank where children threw balls attempting to hit the target and dunk the person in the tank. There were also arts and crafts, a tractor show, barbeque, hoop classes, and dance and yoga demonstrations. “We wanted to bring a community event back to Joshua Tree,” said Linda Sande, Rotary Club of Joshua Tree. “The Marines are absolutely a part of our community. Everyone loves having them here.” The Joshua Tree Summer Splash doubled in size since last year’s celebration. The celebration is over, but is scheduled to be back next year for more fun in the sun.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Christian D. Martinez is a rifleman with 7th Marine Regiment. His former battalion was, the now deactivated, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, where he deployed twice with the unit's sniper platoon.
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Col. David J. Eskelund relinquished command of Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group to Col. Matthew S. Cook during a change of command ceremony at Dunham Amphitheater, June 24, 2014.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - After two years as the commanding officer of 1st Tank Battalion, Lt. Col. Greg Poland relinquished command of the battalion during a change of command ceremony at the battalion’s ramp June 20.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Aric Pope has been climbing and hiking for the 13 years he has lived in Joshua Tree. Since the age of five, he has also ridden dirt bikes, constantly seeking a thrill either in his day-to day life, in the open stretches of sand in the desert, or on the side of a mountain.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The Gladiators of Christ Ministries, sponsored by the Combat Center’s Christ Chapel, held a Serving Those Who Serve event at the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School barracks, June 5.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - In 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, was under attack by former Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The incident left 13 people dead and 30 bystanders wounded, and opened the eyes of the Department of Defense to some much-needed training. A new training program was implemented to detect and prevent future tragedies. The Combat Center conducted its annual Violence Prevention Awareness and Recognition Course this week at Bldg. 1707. The class is given by senior instructors from Armada, a contracted security company. “Last year, the program kicked off,” said Eric Kazmierczak, senior instructor, Armada. “It is an annual requirement now.” The two-hour course identified the warning signs and behavioral indicators of violence, the escalation of potentially dangerous, described how to properly report warning signs and indicators and lastly defined an active shooter. During the course, the instructors used videos, news reports and recent headlines as examples of workplace violence. Their most prominent examples were the active-shooter situations at Fort Hood and the Washington Naval Yard Shooting last year. In each case, there were tell-tale signs that could have helped identify the culprits as a threat and prevented tragedies. The instructors urged the audience to look for signs from their coworkers, such as unusual behavior or performance in the workplace. By identifying these indicators coworkers can help deescalate situations before they become a problem, or at the very least, raise awareness. According to the Department of Labor, there were more than 7 million instances of workplace violence in 2009 ranging from threats and intimidation to homicide. The instructors said the numbers have been on the rise. “Work place violence is increasing,” Kazmierczak said. “The workplace has become a violent place.” The Awareness and Prevention Course was given to individual Combat Center personnel, however, Armada instructors also provided more extensive classes on the subject: the Violence Prevention Team Course, Officers Course and Violence Preventions Representatives Course. The instructors are scheduled to return next year to provide the training to new service members and employees of the Combat Center and reinforce it in the minds of those who attended it this year.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - A climber hangs on by his fingertips, tirelessly clinging to a small part of the mountain face. Using every limb, the climber inches his way up, methodically placing his feet and hands for each advance. Every grip brings him higher until he reaches the top. With ease, the climber slowly lets go, allowing the retractable rope clipped to his harness to ease him back down to the padded floor.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Whether the children have been released for summer vacation, a Marine has just gotten off duty or the platoon has been dismissed for liberty, the need to find something fun and interesting to do during off-duty hours is always prevalent.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The runner climbs the hill with each stride. His feet sink into the sand with each step as he inches closer to the top. His muscles begin to burn but he continues his charge, knowing there will be more terrain to traverse after this moment but still, all he can think of is conquering the hill. Many thoughts cross his mind, but the one that remains the strongest is his reason for running.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The aroma of chicken filled the kitchen as the chefs hustled around the galley attempting to complete their menu before time was up. One by one they brought their dishes out to a buffet setting in front of candle-lit tables. Each team set a couple of plates aside and added last minute touches to the presentation of the food. The judges took their seats at the head of the room as the first team anxiously waited to be called upon. Combat Center Marine and civilian chefs fired up their grills and competed in a Chef of the Quarter Competition at Phelps Mess Hall, Tuesday and Wednesday. The chefs were tested in three different aspects of culinary arts. “This competition gives the chefs a chance to prove their skills,” said John Rocha, Sodexo Government Services. “The food has to look and taste good. On top of being prepared safely and in a timely manner.” The competition began with five teams. The first day of the competition, the chefs participated in a test focusing on basic culinary knowledge, such as temperatures and cooking styles. After the test, the chefs competed in a "Jeopardy-style" competition, which also tested them on basic culinary information. The top three teams earned a chance to compete in a cooking portion which was timed and monitored. “The toughest part of the competition, for me, was the time limit,” said Lance Cpl. Kenneth Martin, food service specialist, Phelps Mess Hall. “Everything seemed so fast. People were scrambling around like crazy trying to meet the deadline.” All chefs were given the same ingredients to choose from and were instructed to make an appetizer, entrée and dessert. The two main foods that were required to be used by each team were pizza and chicken wings. The dishes were judged on multiple factors including taste, presentation and an explanation of how it was prepared and how the ingredients were utilized. “The competition was a lot of fun but it was also nerve-racking,” Martin said. “You don’t know what to expect. You just do your best to make the food and hope people enjoy it.” The winners of the Chef of the Quarter Competition were Cpl. Melvin Banuelos, food service specialist, Phelps Mess Hall, and Martin. “We got to showcase our skills and get away from what we do every day at the chow hall,” Banuelos said. “We cook en masse for the chow hall but today we had to pay attention to the flavor, presentation, and actually had to create a menu of what we were going to serve. We got to use our creative side and it feels good to come out on top.”
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Patrick Whitaker’s father was a Marine and he spent the majority of his life growing up on Marine Corps installations in California. Whitaker, who now works at the Combat Center GameStop, is currently going to school to be a videographer and has a true passion for gaming.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - As the adjutant’s command echoed throughout Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, hundreds of spectators silently watched as the Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted their final pass and review. The battalion, ordered deactivated by the Marine Corps, drew a crowd of distinguished guests and veterans of the unit, which holds a reputation as the most deployed Marine Corps battalion this past decade. They and the Marines and sailors before them knew this wasn’t the battalion’s first deactivation, nor would it be the last.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Desert sun rays beam on service members every day aboard the Combat Center. As the seasons transition into the summer, Marines and sailors will continue to train and exercise. The 101 Critical Days of Summer campaign began, May 26, 2014, to raise awareness on safety for recreational activities and workouts in the rising temperatures of the season. Whether in the field or on the main side of the base, it is important to consider the weather when planning activities. The Combat Center offers many alternatives to outdoor exercise at facilities aboard the installation. “We just want to make sure people on base know the gyms offer free weights, treadmills and other facilities they can use instead of going outside where they can potentially sustain heat injuries,” said Felicia Crosson, health and wellness coordinator, Semper Fit, Marine Corps Community Services. Marines aboard the Combat Center make use of the indoor facilities frequently and understand how effective they are at keeping Combat Center patrons out of the sun. “I use the gym because of how practical and convenient it is,” said Lance Cpl. Gabriel Emery, supply admin clerk, Headquarters Battalion. “If I can lift then immediately go to a treadmill and run, that means I don’t have to ruin my schedule to get the workout I want.” The facilities offer programs like High Intensity Tactical Training and workouts for anyone to participate in. The East Gym offers aerobics, weights, racquetball, and a basketball courts for recreational sports or leagues that are run by MCCS. The West Gym offers the same, but includes two buildings which contain a rock-climbing wall and HITT facilities like the Hypoxic Chamber, which makes the air quality inside feel like training at 10,000 feet above sea-level. Programs such as yoga, HITT, cycling, Zumba, cardio circuits and more can be found at the base gyms for service members and their families to participate in. “Both gyms offer a lot to anyone who wants to use them,” Crosson said. “We also offer programs with dedicated schedules for service members to try new things while they’re here. The more we have to offer at the gyms, the safer we can make the base by keeping them out of the harsh conditions during the summer.” Family members of different age groups can also utilize programs and facilities offered at the gyms such as the rock-climbing program for children. “We’re open to families as well and offer events like rock climbing for children to be introduced to with parental supervision,” Crosson said. For those who would like to break out of the gym for a moment, a new training area has been made available. “A new turf has also been added by the West Gym to offer other exercise opportunities like rope climbing, tire flips, pull-up bars and Olympic weights so Marines can train on grass-like material. The turf by the West Gym was made with sand so the ground does not heat up as quickly and gives Combat Center patrons a safe alternative because they are closer to the gym,” Crosson said. The opportunities offered at these gyms give many options to units, individual service members or anyone who wants to get a well-rounded workout while staying out of the heat, according to Emery. “Our main concern is safety,” Crosson said. “As things heat up on base, we want to make sure people don’t go out there and run at the hottest point of the year where they can suffer from dehydration or heat stroke. We have the facilities to provide a good exercise alternative which is most important.”
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Covert is currently serving as the Combat Center Commanding General’s Aide and has a true passion for being a Marine. Her father, who also was a Marine Corps officer, inspired her to adopt the values of honor, courage and commitment, and pursue her dream of becoming a Marine.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - As Trudy Knight, wife of deceased Gunnery Sgt. Charles White, strolled through the grounds at the Twentynine Palms Public Cemetery on Monday morning, she turned to four Marines in dress blues.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Marines have tough jobs. They work late, through weekends and occasional holidays. In order to gain perspective of Marine Corps life, approximately 20 spouses took on their Marine’s job for a day.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle engine roars as it begins moving the fire team through a middle-eastern town. The sound of stray bullets echo through the streets as enemy fire impacts the armor of the vehicle. Equipped with their kevlar helmet, flak jacket, and M-16 A4 rifles, the team navigates through hostile city receiving a barrage of enemy fire. The convoy’s lead vehicle explodes. Frantically, the team leader shouts commands signaling the team to dismount and return fire. The simulator screens shine bright into the stationary vehicle, as the program generates a city populated by digital buildings, insurgents and other potential threats.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The stage shook with the sound of drums and electric guitars as the speakers rang out with every note played. Each song weaved through the sea of service members and their families during the We Salute You Celebration hosted at Lance Corporal Torrey L. Gray Field, May 17, 2014.
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – LAY. HO. HEAVE. Marines with Bridge Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, chanted the preparatory commands as they lifted and moved parts of a bridge in unison, demonstrating their bridging capability to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force leadership during Exercise Desert Scimitar 2014 aboard Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 16, 2014. DS 14 is an annual exercise led by 1st Marine Division, in which 1st MLG serves as their tactical logistics support. The bridge they built provided transportation across a 66-foot gap, allowing Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Mar. Div., to assault the enemy in this year’s training scenario. “We built a Medium Girder Bridge, which is capable of spanning anywhere from 20 feet to over 145 feet,” said 1st Lt. Dwight McGurdy, bridge platoon commander, Bridge Co., 7th ESB, 1st MLG. The MGB is particularly useful due to its ease of transportation as well as its ability to withstand the weight of the heaviest military equipment. “This bad boy can allow pretty much anything from a convoy of 7-tons and Humvees to Abram tanks and trailers hauling artillery across it,” said Cpl. Jervis Hettrick, bridge master, Bridge Co., 7th ESB, 1st MLG. As the bridge master, Hettrick played a critical role in the construction of the bridge, providing junior Marines with direction and ensuring everyone’s safety in the process. “Hettrick is a no-nonsense Marine who is dedicated fully to completing the mission, which sometimes means setting aside others’ wants and needs in order to see the mission through to the end,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Liners, operations chief for Bridge Co. As a unit that supports 1st MEF, 7th ESB wanted to demonstrate the mobility aspect that engineers provide in an expeditionary environment. “For example, if [an infantry] unit sees an avenue of approach they want to take across a wet or dry gap, we build the bridge and they continue pursuing the enemy,” said McGurdy, a native of Tavernier, Fla. In addition to providing that mobility for the infantry units, the MGB is built piece-by-piece, so if the bridge were bombed, for example, only the pieces that received the damage would need to be replaced. Each piece weighs 380-600 lbs., making it a challenging, but manageable weight for Marines to maneuver during construction and repair of a bridge. “Given the adverse conditions that my Marines faced with the heat and terrain, my Marines performed on an exemplary level,” said Liners, a native of Brooklyn Park, Minn. According to Liners, this bridging exercise reinforced the confidence of leadership at 1st Mar. Div. and I MEF, showcasing the capability of Bridge Co. in maintaining mobility in expeditionary environments.
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael James Soliven, a biomedical equipment technician with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, against all odds, is now providing a better life for his family as a dedicated sailor aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - A team of Marines dismount from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter into a landing zone that sits at approximately 11,000 feet above sea level. The team was faced with high gusts of wind, rocky terrain, and the strain higher altitudes can have on the body as they progressed down the mountainside. The group overcame the natural obstacles and pushed through to each checkpoint. Though trekking two kilometers to their first checkpoint, the team still had a long day ahead of them.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Laughter and good times filled Del Valle field as the ‘Wardogs’ took a much needed break from their busy training schedule. Marines old and new to the unit, spent time with each other and shared food and refreshments in a setting that encouraged good fun and camaraderie. Second Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, trains to sharpen their skills to be at the highest level of readiness, but on Saturday, the battalion took some time to relax and unwind for all the hard work its Marines have done. Coming from multiple field operations, 2/7 hosted a barracks bash, May 10, 2014.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Navy Lt. Matthew Fisher is a chaplain with the Marine Corps Communication Electronics School. he enjoys running and skiing and while at his high school broke an approximately decade-long losing streak in his division of high schools for Cross Country with a three-mile time of 14 minutes and 52 seconds while attending Marion Military Academy in Aurora, Illinois. I was the youngest of five children in my family. I had two sisters, who were very musically inclined, and one sister and a brother who were great at sports and very successful which left me kind of floating in their shadow. For a long time in my life, I had to try to stand out from their achievements which led me to seek a different path. My brother was a star athlete; he graduated high school as the valedictorian and went on to attend an Ivy League school and ultimately became a professor at Purdue University. Then there’s me; I couldn’t go anywhere without someone comparing me to one of my siblings and what they’ve done. I began my journey to make my own mark by going to Marion Military Academy, an all-boys catholic military school, where I would have achievements that would set me apart. Alpine skiing was something we did as a family and came very natural to me. I received several concussions in my goal to conquer mountains by skiing. While on the slopes I learned to always wear a helmet and never try to impress women while skiing. It’s how I got one of my concussions. By my junior year in high school some of my teachers noticed I was a fast runner and eventually the coach of the school’s Cross Country team heard who I was. I was encouraged by my English teacher and my father to begin running competitively. It’s a fundamental part of life to want to make your own path and seek meaning in what you do. It’s important to remember not to get caught up in being different from others but more so doing something you enjoy. - In my experience, fulfillment in a profession doesn’t necessarily mean money or a determined amount of success but if you find joy and accomplishment in yourself. - After I got to Marion Military Academy for high school, I played sports recreationally, but my junior year I was encouraged to join the cross country team. The long-distance running came naturally, and I honestly never considered I’d be good at it. I guess it was a skill I never knew I had until that point. - It was a great surprise for me I suppose because it taught me a lot of lessons in teamwork. Running is individual oriented but I would work hard and push myself to make a positive contribution to the team. How I performed directly influenced other people and that was an important lesson. Growing up, I thought going to church was a chore, but I came to realize that church wasn’t the only part to being in the faith. A large part of it was helping the community and impacting the lives of people around you. A large part of why I became a chaplain was to help the people who sacrifice so much every day to serve this country. What I realized through ministry and the volunteer work I did with Christian programs is that although people may have different walks of life many of them have similar problems. Helping someone find a direction to go in to find meaning in what they do is a common dilemma people have in their lives. Being able to guide people in the direction they want to go and help with their issues in their life is a rewarding experience. It’s important to work toward something with every step you take. Having the end goal in mind can help get through the hard times of a life situation. - On a run, pushing through the times you want to quit will help you get to the finish line quicker. That concept can be applied to anything we do. Running teaches many valuable lessons. There are many points in a long distance run where you can hit a wall of exhaustion and your body wants to give up. Those are the moments you have to prepare for the most because the urge to quit always lingers. Your career, day-to-day, or even life can present these imaginary walls that can make you want to give up or quit. Having the resilience to burst through those walls and overcome obstacles is a key part to leading a life you can be proud of.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - For Marines, the rigorous training cycle of a work-up, being deployed and returning home, builds bonds that can last a life time. Unfortunately, there are times when our brothers and sisters struggle with post-war efforts and combat stress can overcome them. One service member lost to suicide is too many, and as the years have passed, many initiatives and programs have been launched to caveat this epidemic. Operation Adrenaline Rush combines combat operation stress control principles with outdoor recreational activities to aid in mitigating boredom, boost morale and deter high-risk behavior of recently deployed Marines. Under the program, Marine units coordinate with their family readiness officers and their installation’s Outdoor Recreational Facilities to set up outdoor activities that could include hiking, rock climbing, boating, skiing, snowboarding, paintballing, mountain biking and more. All Marine units that have returned from deployment are eligible to participate in this program. They have up to 120 days after they return to schedule an event for their unit. The participation and activities are free for all Marines involved. “The Combat Center initially wasn’t funded for this program,” said John Murdock, recreation manager, Combat Center Outdoor Adventures. “Marine Corps Air Station Yuma set aside extra funds for Combat Center Marines and that is how we were able to get our Marines out there. We have also worked with our budget and are preparing and planning more future trips for our Marines to take advantage of.” The program is broken down into two parts: combat and operational stress control principals and outdoor activity. During the COSC principles portion, senior Marines will brief the juniors on influences and resiliency, demonstration of confidence, trust, and competence among fellow Marines. This is designed to assist the Marines in acquiring the coping skills needed to manage combat experiences and stresses. The second part of the program is conducting the activity. “I heard about this program from our family readiness officer and base sergeant major, and I knew I wanted to get my unit involved,” said 1st Sgt. Rafael Vargas, Company B first sergeant, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion. “They were able to accommodate our unit on the trip, so we split it up into five different days, and sent our guys by company.” For the Combat Center, 3rd CEB has been the first and only unit thus far to participate. For their activity, the Marines were bussed out to the Pirate Cove Resort in Needles, Calif., where they participated in water recreation events and paintballing. “We heard about this when we came back from deployment in October, 2013,” said Cpl. Thomas Castellano, combat engineer, 3rd CEB. “In February of 2014, we were officially involved in the event. At first, it seemed like a normal mandatory fun day. As soon as we got out there, I realized it was much different.” For the 3rd CEB Marines, each day was spilt in half; half the day in the water, and the other half paintballing. “Not one person had anything bad to say about the event,” Castellano said. “Having the activities to do with the group of people you deployed with reminds you they are still there. It reminded me of the good things about deployment, getting really close to your group of Marines.” For each portion of the activity, the Marines were given adequate instruction on proper use of equipment. “There is always a safety portion of whichever activity the Marines are going to be involved in,” Murdock said. “While the ultimate goal of the program is to promote stress relief, safety is always paramount, and we don’t take any chances when it comes to the safety of our Marines.” While the Combat Center hasn’t been officially funded by the program, the outdoor Adventures facility has set aside money from their budget to accommodate Combat Center Marines. “Here at Outdoor Adventures, we do the best we can to accommodate what the Marines want to do,” Murdock said. “If we can support the program with the gear that we have readily accessible, then we are more than happy to do it.” With the success of 3rd CEB’s trip, more Combat Center units are looking into recreational opportunities upon returning from deployment. “I believe the Marines are getting everything the program intends to give and more,” Vargas said. “It felt like it was the true end to our deployment. Once we got back from Afghanistan, everyone went on block leave and back to their families. This was an opportunity for all the Marines to connect again after the deployment.” With the ultimate goal of relieving post-deployment stress and deterring high-risk activities, the program also embodies one of the oldest Marine concepts of ‘taking care of our own.’ “It’s one Marine looking out for another,” Murdock said. “Nobody can be the same coming back from the stresses of combat. With this program, we aim to give the Marines tools to help cope with the stress.” If you are interested in getting your unit involved in OAR, contact your unit’s family readiness officer to find out more information.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The full moon shone as dozens of light-armored vehicles quietly sat idle in the still of night. At first, only a faint breeze could be heard until one by one, the LAVs fired up and collectively spilled a climbing rumble across the desert. Four hours from their objective and five from the break of dawn, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion set forth on a unique multi-installation training exercise that would culminate across miles of desert, outside of the Combat Center, at an abandoned prison.
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Becker is a former Marine who maintains a role in the communications field as a civilian. Upon being stationed in Twentynine Palms in 1999 as a radio repair technician, Becker continues to call the Morongo Basin home. >For me, joining the Marine Corps seemed like the next step in life, something I needed to do. I had some prior service in my family, but didn’t find out until after I had joined. >I took the aptitude test and had the option to do which ever job I wanted. Originally, I wanted to do crash fire rescue, but my dad convinced me to find something that would better set me up for my civilian career. >After that, I wanted to sign up in a technical field to set me up for my future. I chose the communications field and ended up becoming a radio technician. >After I reported to and completed the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School, my first duty station was with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment at the Combat Center. >I did the sea-bag drag, walked all of my stuff over to my new barracks. I originally wasn’t very happy about it, because I had all my stuff ready to go somewhere new. It didn’t take long though until Twentynine Palms grew on me, and I started to enjoy it. >For the rest of my five-year contract I stayed with 2/7. While I was with 2/7 we made two trips to Okinawa under the unit deployment program where I also had the opportunity to go to South Korea and the Philippines. >My biggest take away from the Marine Corps is it made me a better person, without a doubt. People say that the military makes you a man, and for me it really did. >My transition out of the Marine Corps consisted of a job opportunity as soon as I got out, working contract jobs aboard the base. I stuck around and eventually applied for a civil-service job with the G-6, and I have been there ever since. >People ask me sometimes why I never left. You always think about going somewhere else, but I looked at it like everything I needed was here. Everything was good, I had a good job, I met my wife out here and have a wonderful family life, so I never saw any reason to leave. >Working now as an electronics technician, I maintain radio communications for all of the training areas aboard the base, as well as the airport surveillance radar, weather systems, and other radio communications aboard the base. >I enjoy knowing that I help keep the base ready for the Marines to train. That support role that I play is important to me. More specifically, I really enjoy my job. I love computers and technology; it is fun for me. >Probably the most fun I have in my job is tower climbing. It is exhilarating. I’m also often flying in helicopters out to remote locations to maintain communication gear. >Our team of eight guys are all prior Marines. The continuity we have because of that is incredible. We work extremely well together and I think a big part of that is all of us have that mentality of being a Marine. >I have always believed in not taking the easy route. Do what you have the capacity to do, but don’t ever sell yourself short. Choose something in life that is entertaining, that you won’t get bored with, and you will do well. >If you are thinking about joining the Marine Corps, I would say pick something that is lucrative, and something you enjoy to set yourself up for when you get out. >Throughout my 15 years affiliated with the Combat Center, I have lived in Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree and now currently in Yucca Valley. What keeps my family and I up here in Yucca Valley is the people and the work. Working on base is a great opportunity for me, and for other Marines transitioning. >I would say that all three of the cities I have lived in out here are great communities to be a part of. There is a sense of belonging that I don’t know if I have ever seen anywhere else. >First and foremost, I love spending time with my family and enjoying our home together. I’m also an avid golfer and love to ride motorcycles, all of which are great hobbies to be a part of in this area. >The ultimate goal is to finish school and continue to work my way up in the G-6. >I’m always trying to better myself and improve the life of my family, and that is what I like to leave with young Marines. Take advantage of everything you possibly can, do something you enjoy, and never stop bettering yourself.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - High-tempo music filled the air as Marines and sailors frantically circled two rows of back-to-back chairs. Although they are surrounded by family and friends, a tense mood fills the atmosphere. Suddenly, the music comes to an abrupt halt, and the group immediately pounces on their nearest chair, shoving each other in the process until one is left the odd man out. He performs a playful walk of shame as those around him laugh, wishing him better luck on the next round of musical chairs.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Oasis Elementary School students made the first-ever visit to the Combat Center, Tuesday. Thanks to a partnership between the school and the Combat Center, the base opened its gates to students for a visit. “Normally, each year the 6th-graders go to a science camp for three or four days,” said Gary Horn, acting chair, School Site Council. “Unfortunately, this year they weren’t able to raise the money. We were looking for different ways we can substitute science camp.” The staff said they were grateful for the opportunity to learn on the base to substitute the canceled trip. The base visit was part of a three-day series of events, taking students to different parts of the base and work with units to learn through demonstrations and practical application. “They get to see things with a hands-on approach on everything,” Horn said. “It reinforces what they learned in school.” More than 60 students were guided around by their Adopt-a-School Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, during the multiple-day visit to learn about the science behind the base. Their first day revolved around the base’s environmental efforts. They were taken to the Combat Center’s Recycling Center and the Waste Water Treatment Center. The students learned about everything from the recycling of industrial and everyday materials to how the base regulates its water in the desert. “Its was pretty cool,” said Paige McAdams, 6th-grade student, Oasis Elementary School. “We went and saw scraps of bombs. It’s a little bit more than I’ve been taught. I learned some new stuff.” Their second day led them to the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School, where the students learned about closed circuits, frequencies and the many types of radios and equipment that the Corps uses to keep in contact during hostile situations. The students were split up into different stations and allowed to try the equipment themselves to communicate with their classmates across the room. From there they were taken to Felix Field, where they visited the Curation Center and nature gardens, where they learned about the natural environment of the Hi Desert. After each group had cycled through each station, they all met on the softball fields where they were welcomed by Marines and officers with the Provost Marshal’s Office, and their military working dogs. The officers demonstrated the abilities and discipline of their canines in front of the crowd of awe-struck 6th graders. The students last day at the Combat Center also attracted 3/4 Marines. They set up a series of classes to teach kids about living in the field and survival skills. But first they had to look the part. With the help of the Marines, the students applied camouflage paint to their faces and went on to the different stations. “This gives them a chance to hang out with the Marines and see what they do,” Horn said. In addition to the survival classes, instructor trainers from Combat Center units set up a demonstration of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Marines de-bloused to demonstrate the many techniques they use to subdue an opponent. They focused key lessons, such as how leverage and pressure points are used during the techniques. After the lessons and demonstrations, the Marines and students sat down together for the field food that service members are so accustomed to. They helped the students open their Meals, Ready-to-Eat and taught them how to use the heating apparatus to make a hot lunch. With the completion of their afternoon meal, the students headed to the last stop of their three-day visit. EOD Marines attached to Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 set up a demonstration of their improvised explosive device diffusing robot, TALON, and their bomb suit at Camp Wilson. The students waited anxiously in line to try on the suit and operate the TALON. MWSS-374 opened up its doors to the elementary school students for a Crash, Fire and Safety Demonstration. The Marines explained the procedures and safety measures they abide by during emergency situations. At the end of the demonstrations, the students boarded their bus to return to school with a better understanding of science and its applications to the Marine Corps. “They have a better understanding from seeing something or doing something what the background process is,” Horn said. “I hope we are able to do this again and that all schools through the district are able to come out and see what is available here on base.”
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Only the voice of the announcer can be heard through speakers behind the giant curtain. The fighter’s heartbeat becomes louder and more distinct each second before his name is called. He walks through the curtain to cheers from a crowd surrounding the octagon arena where he will fight to defend his title. His heart begins to race, slowly picking up speed as he steps into the cage and sees his opponent face-to face.
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - The safety fair, in its third year, was held to increase the awareness of military personnel and their families on the hazards they face on a daily basis, as well as to educate them on other safety practices. In this year’s iteration, Safe Kids Worldwide, a child safety organization, also took part in the event to promote child safety to service members and their families.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - “It is do or die now,” said Cpl. Hugo Antunez, mid fielder, Alliance FC. “If you come out here and don’t take it seriously, then you better start cheering for another team because you’re going to lose and end up on those sidelines. You have to be hungry for that first place.”
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Walton is a retired Marine who has not stopped giving back to service members. Upon retirement as a substance abuse counselor in the Marines Corps, Walton continued his services aboard the Combat Center by becoming a civilian SACO.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Combat Center Marines were given the opportunity to be screened for Marine Corps Recruiting Command advertisements during the annual consolidated casting call held at the base exchange, April 25, 2014.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Twenty-eight Marines began a journey March 31 that took them out of their usual routine and challenged them mentally, physically and as leaders. They underwent hours of training every day and three weeks later their progress was challenged with one final test. Students of Martial Arts Instructor Course 2-14 underwent their culminating exercise at the Combat Center April 17. The course trains Marines to become instructors in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program during 117 hours of instruction in the classroom, on the mats and in the dirt. Upon completion of the course, Marines earn the right to wear a tab on their MCMAP belts that announces their level of training as an instructor. But before earning the tab, Marines first must pass their final examination. The five-hour test was a culmination of their training and took them through 6-miles of obstacles and fighting, as well as mental and leadership challenges. Their final day of the course began at 6 a.m. in the morning. The students gathered at what had been their school and dojo for the past 18 days. There was tension in the air as they stretched and went through their handbooks and MCMAP moves with one another, the last few minutes of study before their long day began. The group consisted of a wide variety of Marines. There were enlisted and commissioned officers ranging from an assortment of military occupational specialties and units. They had come together during the past few weeks to better themselves as Marines and leaders. Now they were bonded through their hardship. “We talk about how other units come here for the [Integrated Training Exercise] have heat casualties and cramping up,” said Cpl. Christopher Trevino, squad leader, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and student, Marine Corps Instructor Course. “But we were born in the sand, baptized by sugar-cookie.” The inevitable moment arrived and they grabbed their gear and split up into three squads. Each Marine carried a total of 60 pounds, including their flaks, Kevlars and a pack filled with MCMAP equipment and a 35-pound ammo-can they had been carrying around since the beginning of the course. “Throughout this entire course, the past three weeks we’ve gotten to know each other,” said Staff Sgt. Marc Fulgencio, lead instructor, Marine Corps Instructor Course. “Everyone always says I don’t understand why the ammo-cans are the biggest burden.” According to him, that would be revealed at the end of the day’s trials. Their trek across the Combat Center began with a formation run, during which a mental aspect was included. The Marines were tested on their knowledge on topics concerning the importance of leadership and combat, such as physical aspects and the importance of leading. All the while, one foot after the other they stepped. After a few miles of running, they stopped and circled around in the sand. They conducted some exercises to wear them out further. Once they were done and well fatigued, they kicked off classes. A Marine was called forward to give a class to the rest of the squad on a topic decided by their instructor. The first Marine was still gasping for air as he tried to find the words to describe the fog of war. It was a fitting topic. All the Marines carried sweat on their brows and finding mental clarity in a weary state made it more difficult to think clearly and find the next words. Each Marine was called up after him, one by one, until the whole squad was done. Once again, they stepped. The three squads converged at the Combat Center’s obstacle course, where they dropped their packs. Still carrying the weight of their flak and Kevlar, each squad worked together to run through the course three times. The lifted themselves over high walls, jumping over logs and climbing the rope at the end of the course. They were panting and covered in sweat. And step. The next portion of the pitted the Marines, squad versus squad. The squad fought against each other in a three matches, using training knives, bayonets and their bare hands. The Marines kicked up sand as they worked together to defeat the opposing squad during the grappling and bayonet fights. However, when they picked up their training knives, the odds were changed. The squads were faced outward during the rounds of engagements and brought into the center to fight with random odds. Some Marines were put against two others and some were faced against greater odds. “I said it day one, one promise I made to all [the Marines],” said 1st Sgt. Jeffery Vandentop, instructor of the course. “That [we] will make sure [the Marines] earn this belt.” They moved from the fighting to their testing portion. The Marines were tested through practical application of their MCMAP skills. But there would be no rest. The squads picked up their packs and moved after every testing a technique. Push-kick, step. Hip-throw, step. Sweep, step. Their next movement was to the top a mountain, their last obstacle. But before they began, they first added a 15-pound bag of sand to their packs. They’re tired and now they add more weight, Fulgencio said. It’s a mental block. Tired and worn out, the Marines ascended to the top of the sandy mountain, step by step. Squad after squad reached the top, ending their journey at the top of the mountain, a symbolic act. “You can stand on this hill and look down at all the terrain [conducted] during this course,” Vandentop said. The Marines dropped their all their gear. Beneath their flaks, their desert cammies darkened with sweat. Fulgencio ordered the Marines to grab their ammo-cans and form a circle around him. The Marines emptied the sand below their feet, only to find a surprise within. Through the weeks of training and their arduous day they had carried those cans. Inside, had been their belts being carried with them the whole time. The Martial Arts Instructor Course takes place once every quarter. The next course will begin July 17. For more information or to sign up for the course, call 830-0290.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Headquarters Battalion, along with Desert Blood Services, hosted a blood drive at the base catholic chapel April 22, 2014. Desert Blood visits the Combat Center frequently to offer service members and Combat Center patrons an opportunity to donate their blood.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Shelton has experienced many different avenues throughout his time in the Marine Corps. He is a limited duty officer, who has been through the enlisted, warrant officer, and commissioned ranks, and uses his experience to inspire Marines. It is funny because two months before I joined the Marine Corps, I didn’t know what a Marine was. The recruiter appealed to my higher calling, and I said this is something I could excel at. I started out as a 2811, which is a telephone technician. I came in open contract, and ended up with 7th Communications Battalion in Okinawa, Japan as my first duty station. My mother always instilled in me to do the best I could. I knew the transition from enlisted to warrant officer wasn’t going to be easy, but it was exactly what I wanted to be. The warrant officers I knew prior to transitioning were inspirations. They were leaders, they were fit, smart, savvy, which were a lot of the qualities I wanted to have. I think people gravitate towards things they are good at. Being a Marine was one of those things for me, which drove me to want to continue on. I was a 13 year staff sergeant when my package got approved. The first package I put in was denied, and I thought it was as complete as it could be. The second package I put it was while I was conducting humanitarian assistance in Thailand. It came back approved while I was attending Arabic school at the Defense Language Institute. I remember it was special because I was a part of the last group of warrant officer selects who got to pin on in the fleet. The entire detachment was out there for the promotion, and it was special to me because you won’t see that again. Promotions to warrant officer now are only conducted in Quantico, V.I. As a warrant officer who spoke Arabic, I endured countless adventures while I was deployed. It was definitely a rewarding experience. Things weren’t always great, a lot of good Marines I knew didn’t make it back, but it was an experience I will never forget. I spent 5 years as a warrant officer before I decided to go the limited duty officer route. I was reminded of my mother’s words, which were to strive to do my best. I wanted to do it because of the same reason I wanted to be a warrant officer. All of the LDO’s I had met were inspirational, and I wanted to be like them. The day I pinned on caption as an LDO was a momentous occasion I will never forget. As an LDO the biggest transition was taking on more of an administration and command role. My first command as an LDO I had between 250-500 students under my charge. I was a transition that I fully embraced and enjoyed. Being back here in the desert has been interesting, but I make the best of it. I have a few passions that fit the desert well. I enjoy playing golf and riding motorcycles. Being out in the desert is like a golf haven. It can also be a great off-roading area for riding my bike. I’m also the boy scouts scout master here on base, which is also one of my passions. Taking out the kids, getting them familiar with the area and building their professional development is a great opportunity. My greatest advice to Marines is figure out what your target is, and do everything you can to pursue it. If you want to go through the top of the enlisted ranks, or transition to warrant officer, you need to have a plan and know what interests you. Once you find out what you want, figure out what you need to do to get there. Take it one step at a time. I always ask Marines a question, ‘What is the opposite of success’. Usually Marines answer failure, and I respectfully tell them that is wrong. The opposite of success is quitting. Many people have tried and failed at many things, but they never quit. They never gave up. That is the mentality I try to instill into the Marines. Failure is a part of life, but quitting shouldn’t be.
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Jessica Arthur, family readiness officer, Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command, hosted the second Installation Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, April 9.