Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
Twentynine Palms, California
Twentynine Palms is the home to the world's largest Marine Corps Base. It is the premier training facility in the world for Marine operations and draws military personnel from all over the world for Combined Arms Exercises.
The two-fold mission of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command [MAGTFTC] is to operate the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center for live fire combined arms training that promotes readiness of operating forces; and provide facilities, services, and support, responsive to the needs of tenant commands, Marines, Sailors and their families. The population assigned-served for the Combat Center is 9,723, Active Duty members, 8,588 dependents, and approximately 1,398 civilians.
Twentynine Palms is the premier live-fire base in the Marine Corps. Each year roughly one-third of the Fleet Marine Force and Marine Reserve units -- some 50,000 Marines in all -- participate in the base's training exercise program. These training exercises involve every weapons system in the Marine Corps' arsenal, from small arms to attack aircraft. They are absolutely essential to maintaining high levels of readiness of the U.S. Marine Corps to fight and defend U.S. National interests.
The Combat Center at Twentynine Palms occupies 932 square miles, or 596,000 acres of the southern Mojave Desert. The Combat Center is three-quarters the size of Rhode Island. Such a sizable land area is essential to the conduct of realistic air/ground combat training exercises.
The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (aka The Combat Center) is located in the Morongo basin which stretches from approximately Interstate 10 to Interstate 40. Within the Morongo basin are located the towns of Morongo Valley, Yucca valley, Joshua tree and Twentynine Palms, the largest being Yucca valley. The Morongo Basin is centrally located in Southern California in the "high" desert region of the Mojave Desert. The basin is often used by travelers from the metropolitan areas of Southern California going to the Joshua Tree National Park and vacation spots in Arizona and Nevada, (Laughlin or Las Vegas). Twentynine Palms is the gateway to the Joshua Tree National Park, 568,000 acres of some of the world's greatest cultural and natural resources. The Park attracted over a million visitors to the area last year and the diversity of those visitors was almost as great as that of the park itself.
Proximity to Major Metropolitan areas or Recreational areas: Big Bear, CA - 113 miles Colorado River - 78 miles Palm Springs, CA - 64 miles Los Angeles, CA - 158 miles San Diego, CA - 177 miles Laughlin, NV - 168 miles Las Vegas, NV - 213 miles.
The area encompassing Twentynine Palms is the Morongo Basin and is classified as having an arid, upland desert climate. The summer months are characterized by high temperatures, low humidity and clear, sunny days. While the average annual temperature is 67 degrees, temperatures occasionally reach 120 degrees in the summer and drop to 15 degrees in winter. Average annual precipitation is about four inches, most of it occurring as rain from July to January. Some freezing rain and snow does occur during the winter at higher elevations.
The terrain consists of steeply sloped mountains with flat intervening valleys that are oriented northwest-southeast. Relief is moderate, with elevations ranging from 1,800 to 4,500 feet. most mountain segments have approximately 2,000 feet of relief from the valley edge to their summits. There are also several dune areas, lava flows, and dry lakes that collect water during brief periods of heavy rain.
The major commands aboard the Combat Center are Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, 7th Marine Regiment (REIN), Combat Service Support Group-1, Air Ground Support Element, Headquarters Battalion and Naval Hospital.
The Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School (MCCES), located on base, is the largest formal school in the entire U.S. Marine Corps. On an annual basis, it conducts a total of 316 classes in 51 course offerings, leading to 37 occupational specialties. The mission of MCCES is to train electronic technicians, radio/radar operators and air intercept operators.
The oasis of Twentynine Palms was discovered in 1885 by Col. Henry Washington, who commanded a government survey party. Before the turn of the century, this area was well known by prospectors and miners. The major mountain range, the Bullion Mountains, reflects the influence of those miners and prospectors in the naming of local terrain features and areas. Many abandoned mines are located in the fire and maneuver areas of the Combat Center. The Dale mines, located 15 miles southeast of the Combat Center, yielded more than $3 million in gold prior to the turn of the century. Mining continued to be a major activity in the High Desert until shortly after World War I.
Veterans of World War I who had suffered lung damage from gas attacks came here to recuperate with the help of sunshine, low humidity and clean air. They were followed by others seeking good health, especially asthma and tuberculosis sufferers. Many of these people took 160-acre homesteads. A common saying at that time was, "The government bets you 160 acres of desert that you can't survive on it for three years." Many did survive, and their descendants are now among the established families in the recently incorporated (1987) city of Twentynine Palms.
The land has a history of military use dating back to 1940 when the Army used the area for training glider crews. When glider training ended in 1943, the Army switched to training fighter pilots. At the end of World War II the Navy used the area as a bombing range until 1945 when it was transferred to San Bernardino County. In 1952 the Marine Corps took charge and was designated Headquarters, Marine Corps Training Center and in 1957 it was commissioned as a Marine Corps Base. In 1979 the base finally became the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.
Within the area surrounding the marine base at Twentynine Palms, housing ranges from apartments to rather large family style homes. Because of the climate, the majority of the houses in the area have a stucco exterior, which is less expensive to build and maintain and produces greater insulation than wood. The average rental price for a three bedroom house would be approximately $500 to $800 per month. The average selling price for a similar home would be between $65,000 and $165,000 depending on the location. Although the marine base had provided on base housing for NCIS agents in the past, because of the increased number of affordable homes in the civilian sector and the increased number of military families on the base, this option is no longer available.
The marine base at Twentynine Palms has a full selection of MWR and contract facilities. Although civilians may not utilize the Marine Corps exchange and commissary, the following is a partial listing of the facilities which are open for use: Movie theater, two gyms, youth activity center, child development center, riding stables, Catholic and Protestant Churches with Jewish and Muslim services also held, Burger King, Taco Bell, Baskin Robins Ice cream, several service member clubs, and a shooting range/club.
Because of the remote area the base and community have gone to great lengths to provide an opportunity for youth to be involved in after school activities. A full agenda of sports for girls and boys are available with soccer, football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, swimming, track, cross country running and golf to mention just a few. Because of the Joshua Tree National Park being in such close proximity, the sports of rock climbing and horse back riding are also enjoyed by many in the area. The Boy Scouts, Girl scouts and Kids Club are also very active in the area.
The High Desert area has a complete list of social, employment, and hobby activities. The Hi-Desert Playhouse Theater and Groves Theater offer live theater entertainment as well as the opportunity to participate in plays and musicals. Local community centers in the towns of Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms offer a variety of activities on a continual basis. In addition to the opportunities in the immediate area, the town of Palm Springs is a short drive away. Shopping, restaurants, theater, art, and a diverse list of cultural events are all close at hand. Some of the best golf courses in the world are located in the Palm Springs area, and several professional events are held each year. In the event employment is desired and not located in the Twentynine Palms area, Palm Springs is within commuting distance.
A community of about 27,000 modern-day desert dwellers, Twentynine Palms exists about five mile south of the Combat Center’s main gate. Southwest travelers know this growing oasis in the Morongo Basin as a gateway to the scenic 558,000 acre Joshua Tree National Park, and as a restful stopover on State Highway 62 between Los Angeles and the aquatic playground areas of the Colorado River.
Reasonable land prices, clean air, modern conveniences, golf courses and parks, plus aviation facilities and pleasant year-round living conditions are among enticements that draw new residents to Twentynine Palms. A large, continually-expanding medical center and seven schools, including two colleges, are marked indicators of the areas growth. Hot, arid summers and invigorating but mild winters in Twentynine Palms mark the location as a mecca for those seeking a healthful climate.
January days averaging a dry 27 percent humidity, range from a brisk 30 degrees at night to a comfortable 68 degrees during the day. In the spring, mild weather prevails and many High Desert areas are blanketed with beautiful wildflowers. Summer brings lows of 73 degrees and highs climbing to 110 degrees.
Today’s townspeople have inherited a history first recorded nearly 130 years ago during the original exploration of what later became Twentynine Palms by Col. Henry Washington. He found Chemehuevi and Serrano Indian tribes living in the surrounding hills and near the spring they called "Marrah", or land of little water, now known as the Oasis of Mara. These tribes, existing since time-unknown, held to their villages even as gold prospectors flowed into the Oasis in the 1870s to camp and replenish water supplies. By 1913, the natives had almost completely disappeared.
It is said Twentynine Palms was named for the number of large, fine palm trees once found in the middle of the Oasis of Mara. The recording of 29 is attributed by various authorities to either Col. Washington or to the gold miners. In the summer of 1885, however, a survey team counted only 26. Not withstanding, Twentynine Palms is what the modern community is known as today.
From the 1880s to about 1910, gold was discovered and prospectors mined the desert hills near the Oasis, and the mining camps Virginia Dale and Old Dale were established. When the price of gold fell too low to pay for the high costs of mining and hauling ore from outlying desert areas, the mines shut down and the miners and their families moved away. Mining continued sporadically but ended with the start of World war I, when gold production was curtailed by the government. It revived briefly in the 1930s during the Great Depression when almost all local men found employment in the mines that reopened.
A far cry from the few World War I homesteaders in 1920, who began to dot the area with cabins on 160- and 80-acre tracts, Twentynine Palms has now expanded to boundaries enclosing some 495 square miles. it still offers a variety of homes that take advantage of the terrain and natural landscapes, smaller subdivision dwellings and trailer and mobile home parks. Rents and prices of homes in Twentynine Palms are considered reasonable.
Educational needs are served by the Morongo Unified School District, which provides for students in the Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, Landers, Morongo Valley and Pioneertown areas.
Higher education is available through College of the Desert - a California community college - which maintains a Copper Mountain campus in Joshua Tree, and a learning lab and satellite campuses of major colleges and universities at the Combat Center Chapman University, a private institution with its main campus located in Orange County, also operates a High Desert campus.
An ideal location for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, Twentynine Palms offers two beautiful parks, a swimming pool and various sports programs including baseball, basket ball, and tennis. Knotts Sky Park has overnight camping with hookups for 36 recreational vehicles and more than 550 individual and group campsites in the Joshua Tree National Park area. The Park’s visitor center and headquarters, with excellent tours, exhibits and displays, is located at 74485 National Park Dr. in Twentynine Palms. Twentynine Palms and its surrounding areas have much to offer in the way of the good life and peace of mind.
A thriving, modern community of 23,000 residents, Yucca Valley lies 20 miles southwest of the Combat Center on Highway 62. Situated at an elevation of 3,300 feet, the community offers comfortable summers, sunny winters and a healthy environment. Yucca Valley offers all of the services and facilities needed for comfortable living and its picturesque desert landscape is profusely dotted with homes ranging form modest to luxurious. Newcomers to the desert community soon recognize the town’s namesake, the "Yucca", Spanish for a prolific genus of desert plant that bears white panicled flowers and which can be seen as natural landscaping for many homes. Yucca Valley’s background is mining and cattle. Although there were few mines in the western end of the Greater Morongo Basin, the Twentynine Palms Mining District had many mines, large and small, and Yucca Valley was an important weigh station for the wagons that brought in men and suppplies to the mines and carried out gold ore.
During the 1880s, the High Desert became primarily a cattle range, with a number of large cattle companies based in the Banning and Big Bear areas running their herds from Morongo Valley to Twentynine Palms. Warren’s Well in Yucca Valley was headquarters for cowboys of the Barker and Shay Ranch, Jim Mart’s "I-S" outfit, the Chase and Law Ranch, and the Talmadge brand, all of whose cattle ranged the Hi-Desert in winter. Warren’s Well was also the gathering point for the spring and fall cattle roundups until World War II. The last cattle drive stirred the dust through Yucca Valley in 1947.
From the standpoint of population, homesteaders began to move into the Hi-Desert during the 1870s, althoughmany of the early arrivals were squatters who never proved up their claims. By the early 1900s, families were moving into an area from Morongo Valley to Twentynine Palms to file their claims. Following World War I, many disabled veteans came here seeking healthful living conditions. The Homestead Era continued on into the 1950s after the five-acre "jack-rabbit" homesteads became available.
The first subdivisions, laying out of streets and the geginning of a town, were started in 1946. One was in the western end, centering at Pioneertown Road, and the other farther east along Old Woman Springs Road (also known as Victorville Road).
Desert Hot Springs, city of about 12,000 residents, is a complete health resort, and lies southwest of the Combat Center off State Highway 62, three miles before it meets Interstate 10. It is one of the few locations in the world where a natural underground river of hot mineral water flows near enough to the surface to be tapped. The water temperatures come from the ground at 110 to 207 degrees. It is cooled and kept by thermostat at 102 to 110 degrees, and used for therapy and recreation. The hot mineral waters were enjoyed by the early desert Native Americans for many years.
While Palm Springs has its share of vacation activities (golf, tennis, hiking and ballooning), perhaps the best reason to travel to the resort city is rest and recuperation. From a large selection of hotels, you will have ample opportunity to choose one that’s quaint and cozy or large and luxurious - whichever suits your vacation plans. The population of Palm Springs (approximately 42,000) enjoys swimming, as do the frequent visitors to the city, evidenced in the startling statistic of almost one swimming pool for every five residents. However, if your athletic endeavors include golf, there are 60 courses from which to choose. For the tennis player, there are more than 300 courts scattered throughout the community.
Joshua Tree, population 6,500, is just 15 miles southwest of the combat center. The town is another entry point to the half-million-acre Joshua Tree National Park and is filled with scenic desert wonders.
With a near-perfect altitude of between 2,500 and 3,500 feet for year-round living, Joshua Tree is 10 degrees cooler than the low desert in summer and 20 degrees warmer than the mountain communities in the winter. Rainfall during the winter and usually in July and August, produces about four inches annually. There are no industries to pollute the air and water, and the climate encourages healthful living. The clean, dry air is recommended by many doctors.