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Tracy Yu, student, University of Southern California, fires at simulated enemies at the Battle Simulation Center during a tour of the Combat Center, March 4, 2014. The majority of the tour participants expressed an interest in working with military families upon completion of their schooling. (Official Marine Corps Photo By Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock

USC, UCLA unite for knowledge at Combat Center

4 Mar 2014 | Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Students, staff and alumni from the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, toured the Combat Center to observe different aspects of military life, March 4, 2014.

The tour participants, most of them graduate students looking to pursue a career in social work, public health or counseling, expressed interest in touring the Combat Center as many of them hope to have a career affiliated with helping military personnel.

“My father was a Vietnam veteran, and I have always had a respect for everyone in the military,” said Jenna DiVito, student, USC. “I grew up witnessing the effects the war had on my father, and developed a passion for wanting to help military families in need.”

With a goal of preparing these students with knowledge for their future careers, Michael King, operations officer, G-5 Community Plans Liaison Office, led the tour and arranged for two informative speakers to be incorporated in the tour as well as site seeing and base history.

The tour began with a question and answer exchange between the tour participants and Niki Mcbain, the emergency manager for the Combat Center.

The tour continued through Mainside and eventually led to Camp Wilson, where participants had the opportunity to experience the Battle Simulation Center.

The Battle Simulation Center works closely with the Marine Air Ground Task Force Integrated Systems Training Center, which focuses on command and control systems training. To date, the simulation center offers 10 different training simulators including rollover training, driver simulation, ambush tactics and more.

After leaving the simulation center, the group met at the base chapel where Natasha Ratchford, victims advocate, was there to speak with them.

Tour participant Alan Graves, who served in the U.S. Army, and works with veterans and civilians who want to become better advocates, described the visit to the Combat Center as “absolutely valuable.”

“It helps us to understand the culture,” he said in reference to discussion with Ratchford. “Our ultimate goal is to help fathers engage more.”

The tour ended with a trip out to range 200, where the participants got the chance to see training areas where Marines prepare for deployments overseas.

“It was interesting to see up close how realistic everything is for the Marines working up for deployment,” said DiVito. “It makes everything so much more real and I am even more appreciative of what the military does on a day-to-day basis.”

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms