In a move evoking the mantra “train as you fight,” the Marine Corps is stretching old boundaries at its desert training center so a brigade-sized scalable force
of 15,000 can move and operate in realistic “live” play.
The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
(MCAGCC) will grow by one-fourth with the addition
of nearly 98,000 acres, or 153 square miles, plus the
temporary use of another 53,000 acres of desert just
for two months a year.
Before that, the MCAGCC covered 935 square
miles, or about 598,400 acres. While it sounds and
looks expansive, its scrubby, creosote-dotted landscape
of washes, lake beds, rocky peaks and volcanic fields is
not big enough for larger forces with modern weapons
and air support to move and fight. As it was, officials
said, the combat center could only support two reinforced battalions. That’s one fewer than what brigades
or regimental combat teams typically have, along with
limited air support.
“Twentynine Palms already
looks pretty big to most people,
and they wonder, ‘Why do you
need more real estate?’” said LtGen
David H. Berger, the I Marine
Expeditionary Force (I MEF) com-
mander at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“I can understand it, because if
you’re not familiar with the
weapons systems and the ranges,
you’re wondering why you need
this extra land. All it takes is one or
two days of operating with a
Marine Air-Ground Task Force
[MAGTF], and you quickly see. …
You’re constrained because
weapons and aircraft have devel-
oped over the years to give us
greater capability. Now we need to
be able to practice using that.”
A provision in the 2014
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) expanded the MCAGCC in two ways: It pulled, or “withdrew,”
78,993 acres of federal public land west of the combat
center in an area called Johnson Valley. It added another 18,704 acres of mostly private land located along the
southern edge. These two areas, designated as
“Exclusive Military Use Area,” became permanent,
live-fire area additions to the installation.
The NDAA also established a “Shared Use Area” of
53,231 acres of federal public land in Johnson Valley
that the Marine Corps will manage and use for training, but only for two nonconsecutive 30-day periods
That starts with Large-Scale Exercise (LSE) 2016,
set to run Aug. 1-30, 2016, the Marine Corps
announced in a July 8 notification to the Bureau of
Land Management, which manages most of the
nation’s public lands, and in e-mails and 1,500 postcards to residents and local authorities. For the
Expansion of Air Ground Combat Center will allow
for more realistic Marine Expeditionary Brigade scenarios
By GIDGET FUENTES, Special Correspondent
The Real Thing’
The Marine Corps is expanding its premier training base at the
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the Mojave Desert.
; About 151,000 acres of public and private land will provide
more training and maneuver areas to support two large-scale
exercises annually for a brigade-sized force working toward multiple objectives.
; Starting in August 2016, for 60 days each year, the Marine
Corps will use about 53,000 acres of “shared” public recreational
land for training. That land, including a popular rock-hopping area,
remains publicly accessible and managed by the Bureau of Land
Management the rest of the year.
; Already this summer, the additional permanent expansion areas
are providing ground for training ranges and maneuver areas to
home-station and visiting units.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 22 SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2015