Johnson Valley Exclusive Military Use Area -- MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.— Government and External Affairs hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and live-fire demonstrations of the newly opened Johnson Valley Exclusive Military Use Area aboard the Combat Center, Aug. 24, 2018.
Brig. Gen. Roger Turner, Combat Center Commanding General, along with VIP guests from the offices of Congressman Paul Cook, California State Sen. Jean Fuller, California State Assemblyman Chad Mayes, the city of Twentynine Palms, town of Yucca Valley and Yucca Valley Airport Commission were present to observe Marines and sailors with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, conduct the platoon supported attack on two mutually supported fortified positions. Prior to the end of the demonstrations, Turner cut the ribbon and addressed the attendees, expressing his gratitude toward those who made the opening of the EMUA possible.
“We wouldn’t be here without the amazing cooperation from the entire local community across the Morongo Valley. This is the result of a whole lot of work but the most important thing is to realize the ‘why’ behind what it is we’re doing here,” Turner said. “Over the last 30 years or so we’ve been heavily engaged in the war against violent extremism. What we recognized a few years ago is that the training areas were inadequate to fully prepare Marines for the sort of conflict they’ll encounter, [so we had to expand]. This is an amazing day for the Combat Center and a [testament to our relationship] with all of the local communities.”
During the live-fire demonstrations, 3/4 utilized mortars, rockets, explosive breaching, machine guns and rifles to facilitate their objective. According to Lt. Col. James Birchfield, commanding officer, 3/4, the EMUA allowed his Marines to train to a level that wasn’t previously possible.
“Generally on this base, we tend to attack in the same direction. With this additional training area we can start turning the map around and start attacking in a different direction, forcing us to think about how the terrain is going to be used for and against us,” Birchfield said. “The ability to conduct multiple live-fire engagements that utilize the entire MAGTF in one event is essential for our success when we send units to forward deploy. A complex terrain requires complex solutions and it forces our unit leaders to think.”
The EMUA is open to all Marine Corps units. According to Birchfield, the real value of this training area is the ability to allow the Marines with the tenant commands, who are sometimes restrained during service-level training exercises, to continue their training while the primary training areas are in use. Not only does the additional land benefit the tenant commands, it’s also allows for a greater maneuver space for the units participating in the service-level training exercises. The value of the additional terrain wasn’t lost on those who observed the training. Rick Denison, Mayor of Yucca Valley, expressed his admiration for the training he observed in the EMUA.
“This was by far the most realistic training that I’ve ever witnessed up close. I’ve seen individual munitions but I’ve never seen munitions used in an actual advancement in the way that the Marines did today,” Denison said. “It was a high level of coordination while they were working out there and I don’t know of another place in our United States where they can train like this.”