Thursday, January 15, 2015

So You Want To Be A Marine ... Part Two!!

After lunch at the NCO Club, we headed back out for more training, this time in as real an environment as they can provide.  The bad part about being in training here is these beautiful, hot, dirty, stinky quonset huts are your home, not that they spend much time in them, because they are training 12-18 hours a day.  There's very little out here except sand ... in fact there aren't even any paved roads.
When asked if they could shop in the Base Exchange, Mike said sure if you had a military I.D., but everything there is geared towards 18-20 years olds with 26" waistlines!!  When NOT training, they're STILL out in the sandlot playing games!!
We drove by several live fire gun ranges, and in the distance could hear rifles firing. 
Although we never got close, the white buildings you see in the distance are ammo bunkers, where all the ammunition and bombs are kept.  They do not reload any of the millions of shells used here.  Trucks bring in cases and cases of ammo every day to be stored in these underground buildings until signed out for field practice.
What this base DOES do, unlike most every other, is recycle.  They have three recycling centers, this one run by eight guys at a time.  All those shells used in the field for practice have to be picked up, checked for live ammo, loaded into containers and sent to the recycle plant.  At the plant, another couple guys go through each and every shell again, to be sure there are no live shells before they are shredded or crushed, depending on what they are.  These are empty .50 caliber shells.
Once everything is either smashed, shredded or melted, it is sold to vendors in the U.S. only, to be recycled into whatever their specialty is.  The Marine Base netted over $2 million dollars last year from this recycling plant.  Now THAT'S pretty amazing!!  It pays their wages, allows them to purchase things like playgrounds and maintain the swimming pool for the kids.  The government gets the rest.  This is a picture of the shells shot from a tank!!
So the second best part about this Marine Base tour, second only to shooting that .50 caliber machine gun ... EVERYONE receives their very own pair of brass balls.  Yup ... if you made it this far, you are rewarded with your very own pair!!  Mike says REAL Marines display them proudly, so mine will have a special place in my rig!!  You TOO can get a pair of brass balls ... just sign up for the tour!!  Actually, the brass casings are run through a machine that wads them up like this and spits them out the end for easier sale and transport.
Our next stop was Heritage Park.  There's a little outdoor amphitheater and a small water feature.
The important part of the park is this map, showing the size of the base versus the size of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, which happens to be the size of Afghanistan.  The pillars around the edge tell all about the base and the major events of every ten years.  Apparently there are people who think the base is too big ... but this map definitely puts it into perspective when you think about the tiny area used to train men from around the world how to protect our freedom!!
Back in the bus, we were told we were going out to range 200 and 215.  There are several of these ranges ... each built to represent a village in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Here's our "Sergeant" Mike ... he looks like a pretty big guy, and he IS!!  Believe me, when he talked, we listened!!  He runs all the tours here ... a very nice guy and funny to boot.  He spent 20 years in the Marines before retiring and returning to the Communications Division.  I think he said he spent six tours overseas, all in Iraq and Afghanistan, including one secret-mission-you probably-won't-live-through that he didn't tell his wife about.  
So here we are in the Afghanistan village, where they teach Marines how to go through looking for the bad guys and not get killed.  This is usually staffed with real people from overseas who play the part of the villagers.  THOSE people teach the guys how to NOT offend the local people while figuring out where the terrorists are and what they're doing.
Our mission was to go through every building, spending about a minute in each, and figure out if there was anything unusual going on.  We discovered too many electronic salesmen, lots of empty fuel containers and too many stoves.  A bomb factory!!  
This town is huge ... much MUCH bigger than you see here.  Everywhere you look are bicycles, car bombs, blood .... it's all pretty realistic!!
They even have tunnels the soldiers have to go through.  When they finally find the terrorist, he gets away by going in a building and down a tunnel, to another hiding place.  When Mike asked if anyone wanted to check out the tunnel, Dan Chance and I jumped at the chance.  I handed my camera off without showing anyone how to use it ... thank you for taking the picture, whoever it was!!  This is me going down the ladder to the bottom.  I did have a quick thought about being enclosed when I saw no light at the end of the tunnel ... but this is another once in a lifetime challenge I'm not about to pass by.  Amazingly, we survived and climbed out the other end.  HOW FUN WAS THAT!!!
As we drove around through the village, Mike told us how important it was to NOT offend the mayor of the village (the brown house), nor offend any family by speaking to a woman.  Very different customs have to be honored since everyone isn't a terrorist, and those that aren't, can help you immensely!!
They even have a mockup of a cemetery.  You never know if what looks like family burying their dead brother might be the bad guys digging up their ammo dump.
We all survived our mission, got back in the bus and took a quick tour of one of many equipment parking lots.  Each lot belongs to one battalion ... least I think that's what he said.  WAY too much info, even though I tried to write much of it down.  At any rate, these trucks are taller than we are in the bus.
Here's the NEW Humvees with something like 10,000 pounds of armored plate and beefed up machine gun turrets.
Mike just wanted everyone to know where all our tax dollars were going.  I'm pretty sure each of us owns one of these trucks.  I sure would like to take mine for a spin out in the desert, but apparently that's not allowed!!
This really was an amazing tour that everyone should take.  It will give you a very good idea of what it takes to protect our freedom.  If anyone is interested, let me know and I will get Mike's contact information.  I promise you won't be disappointed!!


  1. Yes please our group would like a tour. Thanks.

  2. What a wonderful and enlightening tour! I want to go!

    1. Jan, I'll contact you through Messenger with the info.

  3. The name of the rvpark would also help. Thanks

    1. We stayed at Twentynine Palms RV Resort ... 4949 Desert Knoll Avenue, Twentynine Palms. I don't have a way to contact you and don't want to post all of his information on here. Can you send me an email??

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