Fewer Marines, Larger California Desert Base

Expansion will help accommodate training and exercises for a Marine Expeditionary Brigade size force.

Though the number of Marines on active duty will soon drop to 181,000 from the current level of 236,000 -- a cut of just under 25 percent – Marine Commandant James Amos told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the service wants to boost the size of its Marine Air Ground Combat Center at Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., by roughly 25 percent.

Amos said this 168,000 acre expansion to the base, which now occupies 596,000 acres, will help accommodate training and exercises for a Marine Expeditionary Brigade size force -- roughly 14,500 Marines -- and all their toys.

The project will require the withdrawal of approximately 150,000 acres from the public domain as well as the purchase of approximately 2,500 acres of California State Land and 10,000 acres of privately held land.

The Riverside, Calif., Press-Enterprise reported in February that the expansion of the base is opposed by off-road vehicle drivers who say the plan would “kick them out of one of the last and best places to ride in the desert.”

I have a suggestion for these folks: see a friendly Marine recruiter, enlist and get paid to roar around Twenty-Nine Palms -- which from my experience is a truly miserable place in the winter.

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