Camp Pendleton

Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton
The world's largest U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Training Base is located in North Oceanside. It is considered a "recreational" paradise with its military community of over 36,000 spread over 125,000 acres. The camp is well recognized for its interest and effort toward ecology and the preservation of natural resources. With its three mountain ranges and varied geographical terrain, Camp Pendleton has earned its title as an "Ecological Oasis of Coastal California." Home of the First Marine Division, Camp Pendleton is situated on what was once a Spanish land grant called Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores. The area's natural beauty has been changed as little as possible, making Camp Pendleton a modern military base in the heart of a little piece of history.

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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the Corps' largest West Coast expeditionary training facility, encompasses more than 125,000 acres of Southern California terrain.

Located approximately 38 miles from downtown San Diego in North County and 82 miles south of Los Angeles, Camp Pendleton has been the largest employer in North San Diego County for more than 60 years.

Camp Pendleton is one of the Department of Defense's busiest installations and offers a broad spectrum of training facilities for many active and reserve Marine, Army and Navy units, as well as national, state and local agencies.

The Base is home to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Logistics Group and many tenant units, including Marine Corps Air Station at Munn Field, Marine Aircraft Group 39, Marine Air Control Group 38, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Weapons & Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps and Army Reserve Forces, the Navy's Assault Craft Unit 5, a Naval Hospital and 1st Dental Battalion. The coastal and mountain terrain support a variety of military training. Fleet Marine Force units use Camp Pendleton's ranges and training areas to maintain combat readiness.

The Base also provides specialized schools and training as directed by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Several schools are located on Camp Pendleton including Assault Amphibian School Battalion, School of Infantry, Field Medical Service School and Marine Corps University. Following recruit graduation, enlisted Marines receive basic infantry training at the School of Infantry at Camp San Onofre before assignment to other units throughout the Corps. More than 38,000 military family members occupy base housing complexes. However, with a daytime population of 60,000 military and civilian personnel, the Marines, Sailors and their families rely on the surrounding communities for retail goods and services not available on Base.

The neighboring cities of Carlsbad, Escondido, Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Clemente, San Marcos, Temecula and Vista provide employment, housing and services needed by the Camp Pendleton population.

Camp Pendleton contains the largest undeveloped portion of coastline in Southern California. The ecosystem includes beaches, bluffs, mesas, canyons, mountains and Southern California's only free-flowing river. There are more than 1,000 species of plants, fish and animals, some of which are either threatened or endangered. Wildlife and habitat protection is a top concern of all who live, work and train at Camp Pendleton.


Of all the Marine Corps bases throughout the world, Camp Pendleton has one of the most intriguing pasts, filled with historical charm and vibrancy. Spanish explorers, colorful politicians, herds of thundering cattle, skillful vaqueros and tough Marines have all contributed to the history of this land.

In 1769, a Spaniard by the name of Capt. Gaspar de Portola led an expeditionary force northward from lower California, seeking to establish Franciscan missions throughout California. On July 20 of that same year, the expedition arrived at a location now known as Camp Pendleton, and as it was the holy day St. Margaret, they baptized the land in the name of Santa Margarita.

During the next 30 years, 21 missions were established, the most productive one being Mission San Luis Rey, just south of the present-day Camp Pendleton. At that time, San Luis Rey Mission had control over the Santa Margarita area.

In 1821, following Mexico's independence from Spain, the Californios became the new ruling class of California, and many were the first generation descendants of the Portola expedition. The Mexican governor was awarding land grants and ranchos to prominent businessmen, officials and military leaders. In 1841, two brothers by the name of Pio and Andres Pico became the first private owners of Rancho Santa Margarita. More land was later added to the grant, making the name Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, and that name stayed with the ranch until the Marine Corps acquired it in 1942.

In 1863, a dashing Englishman named John Forster (Pio Pico's brother-in-law) paid off Pico's gambling debts in return for the deed to the ranch. During his tenure as owner of the ranch, he expanded the ranch house, which was first built in 1827, and developed the rancho into a thriving cattle industry.

Forster's heirs, however, were forced to sell the ranch in 1882 because of a string of bad luck, which included a series of droughts and a fence law that forced Forster to construct fencing around the extensive rancho lands. It was purchased by wealthy cattleman James Flood and managed by Irishman Richard O'Neill who was eventually rewarded for his faithful service with half ownership. Under the guidance of O'Neill's son, Jerome, the ranch began to net a profit of nearly half a million dollars annually, and the house was modernized and furnished to its present form.

In the early 1940s, both the Army and the Marine Corps were looking for land for a large training base. The Army lost interest in the project, but in April of 1942 it was announced that the rancho was about to be transformed into the largest Marine Corps base in the country. The Marine Corps paid $4,239,062 for the rancho and it was named for Major General Joseph H. Pendleton who had long advocated the establishment of a West Coast training base.

On the eve of World War II, the Marine training bases were limited to Quantico, Va., Parris Island, S.C., and San Diego. When expansion of all U.S. armed forces was authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proclamation of an unlimited national emergency on May 27, 1941, an immediate need for additional amphibious force training facilities led to the construction of Camp Pendleton.

After five months of construction, ranches at Santa Margarita, Las Flores and San Onofre became the West Coast's largest military camp. The first troops to occupy the new Base were the 9th Marine Regiment, who marched from Camp Elliot in San Diego to Camp Pendleton. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Base on Sept. 25, 1942, and named it in honor of World War I Marine Maj.Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton.

By 1943, the first women Marine reservists arrived to help keep Base administration running smoothly. The Ranch House chapel was restored and opened primarily for their use.

By October 1944, Camp Pendleton was declared a "permanent installation" and by 1946, became the home of the 1st Marine Division.

During the Korean War, $20 million helped expand and upgrade existing facilities, including the construction of Camp Horno. When Camp Pendleton trained the country's fighting force for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, approximately 200,000 Marines passed through the Base on their way to the Far East.

The Corps broadened its capabilities during the 1980's from "amphibious" to "expeditionary" by combining infantry, armor, supply and air power. Troops and equipment could now be deployed halfway around the world in only days as part of a self-sustaining air-ground team. This successful use of military power has been demonstrated through Marine Corps operations in Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti Afghanistan and Iraq.

Camp Pendleton has continued to grow through renovations, replacing its original tent camps with more than 2,600 buildings and 500 miles of roads.

Efforts today continue to preserve the rich heritage of Camp Pendleton's founders and the Marine Corps' 231 years of history. The original ranch house is now the home for the Commanding General of the First Marine Expeditionary Force and has been declared a National Historic Site.

Some of the Base's streets and sites have been named in honor of military war heroes and battles. The geographic locations formally christened by Spanish explorers and missionaries continue that heritage. A ranch cattle brand, Pendleton's logo, can be seen throughout the Base.

Community Involvement:

The Community Plans & Liaison Office (CP&LO) serves as the Base Commanding General's direct representative with local communities, public elected officials, other government agencies and major landowners surrounding the Base. The CP&LO staff also serves as the primary point of contact for any off-Base entities seeking a long-term use of Camp Pendleton land. This office serves in an oversight capacity to encroachment issues that could potentially affect the Camp Pendleton mission or its tenant commands. The staff assist on Base strategic land use planning.

The office works with local, state and federal officials to coordinate planning of mutual interest issues within Southern California. When necessary, the CP&LO staff provide information to local community authorities and regional planning agencies about Camp Pendleton land use and its training mission.

CP&LO coordinates the assignment of senior Camp Pendleton officials to serve as liaisons with local chambers of commerce, school boards and other community organizations. These assignments assist in enhancing communication with many off-base activities and organizations. The CP&LO serves as the primary Base coordinator for the School-to-Career program that involves approximately 600 students from two area school districts each year.

Camp Pendleton opens its doors to the surrounding communities in many other ways. Citizens with an authorized escort may tour the Base or request Marine Corps support through color guards, band, military equipment displays, military police and K-9 dog units.

Marines serving at the Base Community Relations Office also help promote the Adopt-A-School program by uniting an elementary class with a unit on Base. This program allows the students and Marines to work one-on-one to enhance student learning. Many Marines not only volunteer to help with child education programs, but also with sports or other after-school activities.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is a private, non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to providing temporary financial aid to Marines, Sailors and their families. Assisting with immediate essential needs through disbursement of interest-free loans or grants is the principle activity of the NMCRS. In addition, the NMCRS manages a thrift store on Base to aid Camp Pendleton's personnel. All items are received by donation only and the profits are used to support programs benefiting Camp Pendleton's Marines, Sailors and families.

The American Red Cross is a non-profit organization that provides emergency assistance to service members and their families. These services include 24-hour emergency communications; financial assistance on behalf of the NMCRS for emergency travel; referral and advocacy services; health and welfare inquires; assistance with humanitarian transfers and hardship discharges; health and safety courses such as first-aid, CPR and baby sitting.

The Combined Federal Campaign, the only campaign authorized to solicit and collect contributions from federal employees in the workplace, collected more than $368,000 in charitable contributions from Marines and Sailors aboard Camp Pendleton in 2003 for distribution to local and national charities.


Camp Pendleton's 125,547 acres host a self-sustaining water supply, sewage treatment plants, telephone and electrical systems. With a 60,000 daytime population, Camp Pendleton must maintain its self-sustaining capabilities.

To help maintain the high demand on Pendleton's utilities, there are seven sewage treatment plants, 150 miles of sewer mainlines, 24 wells, 375 miles of water mainlines, 23 reservoirs, 145 miles of gas lines, 335 miles of electrical lines, 215 electric substations and two landfills.

Along with having its own utility distribution systems, Camp Pendleton also maintains 7,300 family housing units and is constructing additional units in conjunction with maintaining 18,000 permanent party billeting spaces. In addition, there are more than 2,600 buildings and structures. The largest structure on Base is the 6,000-foot runway at the Air Station.

With constant training on Camp Pendleton, preserving the environment and compliance with waste reduction is an important consideration. In 1986, a successful recycling program was established. In 2003, the Base recycled 4.3 million pounds of cardboard and 1.2 million pounds of paper, constituting a savings of more than 4,352 cubic yards of landfill space.

Camp Pendleton was the first Marine Corps installation to safely recycle expended brass casings for resale, as required by DoD.

Base Facilities Statistics Acres of Base Area - 125,547 Family Housing Units - 7,300 Billeting Spaces - 18,000 Buildings - 2,600 Miles of Roads – 530 Railroad Tracks – 14 Sewage Treatment Plants - 7 Miles of Sewer Lines – 150 Sewage Lift Stations – 71 Water Wells – 33 Miles of Water Lines – 375 Water Reservoirs – 25 Miles of Steam Lines – 6 Miles of Gas Lines – 145 Miles of Electrical Lines – 335 Electrical Substations – 215 Boilers – 487 Landfills - 2


The Joint Education Center is the starting point for a successful and rewarding career in the Marine Corps. Personnel prepare themselves for a productive career and additional leadership responsibilities through education and training programs offered at Camp Pendleton. Family members, DoD civilians, Base contractors, retirees and reservists are also eligible for assistance.

Several accredited colleges operate on Camp Pendleton. These schools are flexible with times and locations by scheduling classes to meet the student needs. The colleges offering classes on Camp Pendleton include: Palomar College, Central Texas College, Park University, Cameron University, Central Michigan University and Embry-Riddle University. These schools offer certificates, as well as associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.

Several education assistance programs operate to assist active duty Marines and Sailors. Tuition Assistance provides up to 75% of service members' tuition for eligible classes. The 698 Marines, Sailors and civilians enrolled in off-duty education courses in 2003 spent more than $6.3 million for tuition, course fees and books.

There are five public schools at Camp Pendleton that offer kindergarten through sixth grade and support approximately 3,605 students. San Onofre Elementary School also offers seventh and eighth grade. The average classroom size for each school is 29 students.

The schools that contribute to the Fallbrook Elementary School District are San Onofre Elementary and Mary Faye Pendleton Elementary. North Terrace Elementary, Santa Margarita Elementary and Stewart Mesa are all within the Oceanside School District.

During 2003, Oceanside School District received almost $6 million for a total of 4,480 students and Fallbrook School District received almost $4.3 million for a total of 1,495 students. Money received is totaled from appropriated funds and donations.

Child, youth and teen programs serve approximately 2,000 children in childcare and 260 in youth programs each day. Because there is a shortage of childcare and teen programs throughout surrounding counties, the price of quality childcare has increased and most families cannot afford childcare in the local communities. The child, youth and teen programs' mission is to support military families.

There are five full-time and one hourly care child development centers, four on-site before and after school programs, three youth centers, one resource and referral office and 102 licensed family child care homes on Camp Pendleton. These education programs and schools are here to support, educate and benefit the Base and community residents.


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