MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines, six decades’ worth, gathered at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Sept. 22, 2011, for the installation’s 60th anniversary celebration.
Old and new-school Marines alike observed the dedication of a new museum, designed to look like the quonset huts used to house students there.
The museum also features uniform and gear displays from every era the base has been in operation, and an exhibit of the Corps’ premier high altitude and cold weather training facility.
“The stories are flowing fast and furious,” said Col. Phillip Chandler, MCMWTC commanding officer. “We always talk about the ones who’ve gone before us. Well, yes we have the guys who’ve gone before us, but they are still alive, and they’re right here where we can talk to them.”
The center, which opened in 1951 as a result of the number of cold weather related casualties the Corps suffered during the Korean War, became the predeployment training requirement for Marines deploying to Korea. Time spent there acclimated them to the high altitude and snowy terrain.
The ceremony’s date held a special meaning for the installation personnel. September 22 marked the exact day the first Marines with the 14th Replacement Draft, stepped aboard the MCMWTC for training.
“I was here 60 years ago to this day,” said Roy Cratty, a veteran of the Korean War and one of the very first trainees at the MCMWTC in 1951. “The year was colder than it is now. We didn’t have shelters then. I don’t remember being in a tent. They gave us blank ammunition for our M1s and that’s all we had really.”
Gunnery Sgt. Henry Vozka, retired, shared memories of time spent as an instructor guide at the Cold Weather Training Center from 1959 to 1961.
“I enjoyed the outdoors, I enjoyed the challenge of living with and looking after the troops,” Vozka said. “We lived in today’s fashion – grim, with quonset huts and the oil stoves. We were only making $150 a week. We made do with what we had, and nobody complained.”
Veterans from Korea to the current fight laughed together as they talked about their time at MCMWTC. This not only to gave the veterans a chance to reminisce, but also gave the younger Marines a chance to learn about a very specific section of the Corps’ history, one that directly relates to them.