This is The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

U.S. Marine Corps story by Cpl. Hunter Wagner and Lance Cpl. Anna Higman

It was the 1950s. Tensions were rising overseas and the U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, California, was running out of room to provide the necessary training to be mission ready. The Marine Corps began looking for other locations to conduct training and exercises on a large scale, to accommodate live-fire training with artillery and rockets. A dormant training area 130 miles inland, previously used by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army Air Corps, was selected to be used for a new Marine Corps Installation, then known as Camp Detachment Marine Corps Training Center, Twentynine Palms.

“Marines Arrive”, announced The Desert Trail to the local community on August 21, 1952, the day after the Camp Detachment Marine Corps Training Center was established in Twentynine Palms. The 200 Marines that arrived on that hot August day were warmly welcomed by the community.

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All photos Courtesy of Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center

“The local desert community was no stranger to military operations. Many local residents were World War I veterans who moved to the desert hoping the clean dry air would ease their suffering from mustard- gas injuries” said Erin Adams, director of Government and External Affairs at The Combat Center.

The Marines were here to stay. In 1979, Camp Detachment Marine Corps Training Center was redesignated as the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. That same year, the 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert H. Barrow, personally tasked Col. Gerald H. Turley with building a live-fire combined arms exercise at The Combat Center. As the first director, Turley created the Tactical Exercise Evaluation and Control Group, which later became the Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group (TTECG) in 1995.

Throughout TTECG’s history, they have supported the Fleet Marine Force through Palm Tree Exercises, Combined Arms Exercises, Revised Combined Arms Exercises, Mojave Vipers, and now the Marine Corps’ premier Integrated Training Exercise. ITX, along with other new and improved exercises, was later incorporated into the Service Level Training Exercise Program (SLTE-P).

Due to its size and remote location, The Combat Center has been able to evolve in response to the known and anticipated changes in the operating environment and accommodate advancing weapon systems. During the Global War on Terror, the training focus shifted toward urban warfare. In recent years, The Combat Center continued to enhance its training capabilities in response to current pacing threats in the Indo-Pacific region.

Nearly every day of the year, there is training taking place. The Combat Center conducts several 60-day Service Level Training Exercises each year. These exercises are comprised of six training events, including ITX. They are designed to provide realistic and challenging scenarios to prepare deploying units to respond to crises and conflicts around the globe. Marines train in traditional combined-arms exercises and then participate in a culminating force-on-force exercise designed to challenge commanders while they operate against a tailored peer adversary. Service Level Training Exercises push commanders to be innovative and adaptive to better face our Nation’s ever evolving adversaries.

“The Combat Center enhances the Fleet Marine Force’s lethality by serving as the crossroads for the Corps’ Force Design and Force Development. The Service’s modernization plan is rapidly unfolding in many ways across multiple echelons of command around the world,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Thomas B. Savage, Commanding General of Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, MCAGCC.

In December 2013, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized withdraw and reservation of public land adjacent to The Combat Center to provide enough land and airspace that could support large-scale, sustained, combined-arms, live-fire and maneuver training. The Combat Center is now the largest installation in the Marine Corps, with a landmass that spans approximately 1,190 square miles. The installation contains 27 training areas and 45 ranges. As result of the expansion, The Combat Center is the only military installation in the nation with sufficient training range areas to conduct large-scale MAGTF training, an enduring Marine Corps readiness requirement necessary to meet the demands of modern warfare.

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Today, up to 45,000 Marines, as well as other U.S. and allied forces, train at The Combat Center every year.

“The permissive training environment at The Combat Center allows the MAGTF to employ new systems and concepts as they are designed in offensive and defensive operations as a regimental or brigade task force, demonstrating a lethal capability in a combat environment,” mentioned Savage.

The employment of surface, air, and multi-domain fires cannot be replicated outside of The Combat Center. When you hear the sound of training, you are hearing our Marines preparing for deployment.

Situated in the Hi-Desert of California, The Combat Center is committed to being good stewards of our environment.

In 2004, the Tortoise Research and Captive Rearing Site (TRACRS) was established. TRACRS provides a controlled environment for the head starting of juvenile desert tortoises, to eventually release the tortoises back into the wild when they are larger and more resistant to predators. The installation has also implemented measures to protect tortoise habitats, conducted surveys and monitoring programs, participated in
research studies, and conducted education and outreach programs to raise awareness about the importance of desert tortoise conservation.

Throughout the years, infrastructure improvements and expansion of housing facilities were made to provide better living conditions for personnel stationed at the installation. With improvements, The Combat Center achieved net-zero energy consumption and focused on improving the quality of life for service members and their families.

As the U.S. Marine Corps’ premier training venue, The Combat Center continues to adapt to meet the ever-evolving changes and needs of our Nation and remains a vital asset in preparing Marines for combat by ensuring their readiness for future challenges.

Released by Capt. Johnathon Huizar, Director, Communication Strategy and Operations
Marine Air-Ground Task Force Training Command Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California 92277 johnathon.huizar@usmc.mil

All photos Courtesy of Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center