Marine Corps Air ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Hot. Dusty. Desert. Desolate. Uncomfortable. Disobliging. Camp Wilson is in the middle of the desert, which is in the middle of Twentynine Palms, which is in the middle of nowhere. There are reasons people come out to the desert. To get away. To get a different experience. And because they got military orders. But Camp Wilson has its amenities. You can place to wash your clothes, work out at its gym. You can even catch a burger and a brew at its local watering hole, after experiencing the most unique training in the Corps.
Camp Wilson sits on the edge of the most realistic training area available in the Marine Corps. If you peer outside your metal, rounded, tent-like building known as a K-Span, you can see the mountains and desert terrain that hold some of the most unique training areas the Marine Corps has to offer like an urban military complex the size of downtown San Diego. Some of the training areas include names that can conjure fantastical imagery – Lead Mountain, Rainbow Canyon, Quackenbush. So as you sweat through your shoes, can’t breathe because of the hot dry sand, the occasional sandstorm that comes in and wrecks all your gear, the sudden strong gust of winds, feeling of emptiness when you peer at the vast emptiness of the desert, Camp Wilson really isn’t so bad. The local club has cable television.
It is called the Warriors Club, but you can’t exactly bring in a loaded rifle through the doors. They prefer you clear your weapon by pointing the business end at a big red aluminum barrel and make sure there isn’t any ammunition in the weapon. Once through the doors though, it’s like any other sports bar in America. There are arcade games, pool tables, and a grill and bar. Most importantly, it has air conditioning, a valuable commodity when you’re drenched in your own sweat and there is not a dry spot on any article of clothing you’re wearing.
Mini-Mart for Marines
They got movies. They got snacks. They got cold drinks and a whole aisle of beef jerky. They got everything you need, up to and including a tactical, SWAT team style pistol holster. Not exactly something you can find at your local convenience store. The Post Exchange aboard Camp Wilson is a fully-functional store where people will find the majority of items they would find at a regular military store. It is a central hub of a one-stop-shop where at any time it is open, you can find a dusty and sandy Marine walking through the aisles with a rifle slung over his shoulder perusing Pop-Tarts.
You can’t wash away the heat, but you can wash away the sweat, dirt, sand, rocks, grime, funk, blood, and other extra effects that you might get on your clothing at the local Laundromat. Marines are known for their spit and polish uniforms. Looking sharp and professional in their Dress Blues – high glossed and high speed. The camouflaged battle dress uniform? Not so much. But at least you can wash it here for free. And it has air conditioning.
Yes, there is a gym
In every clime and place, Marines want a gym. They need a gym. If Marines went to Mars, the very first thing they would ask for is, “Is there a gym.” If not, they will make one using pieces of steel and wood for pull-up bars, concrete on the end of poles for curls, and rocks in their packs to pick up and put down.
If running in 100 degree weather with 70 pounds of gear up and down hills isn’t enough, there are free and Nautilus weights at the Camp Wilson gym. There is even a small gym outside next to the indoor gym. A gym outside to work out in the heat if you just can’t get enough of the beautiful weather in the desert oasis that is Camp Wilson.
see you soon
Weather it be a first or last visit, it can often seem like an extended stay at Camp Wilson. However, most would agree, it could be much much worse and those Marines who know what it’s like to be out in the field for weeks, in the desert heat, with out showers, clean socks and hot meals, will say Camp Wilson can be a welcome sight.
Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a three-part series about Camp Wilson. See next week’s edition of the Observation Post for part two.