Many of us see Camp Pendleton as that nice 17-mile stretch of coastline that provides a welcome buffer from the hustle and bustle of Orange County and the greater Los Angeles area. Despite having more than 40,000 active duty military and more than 85,000 personnel who live, work and play on the base, outsiders often have little knowledge of the role the base plays in our national security.
Understanding more about Camp Pendleton was exactly what the LEAD San Diego IMPACT group sought as it embarked on a recent optional session held at the base.
The cohort received an impressive overview from Colonel Eugene Apicella, deputy commander at United States Marine Corps Marine Corps Installations West – Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. He spoke of the installation’s role in preparing Marines and sailors to operate in extreme environments, and the incredible advancements in technology that are available to soldiers today. However, he stressed that while technology is important, focusing on the individual is paramount, which includes creating an environment for fostering leadership.
We also heard from a panel of Marines, who echoed the colonel’s sentiments on leadership and discussed how a structured environment like the Marine Corps fosters innovation and exploration. Panelists explained that the Marine Corps is constantly reinventing itself and encouraging constituents to think outside the box.
This includes leading with intent, not orders, which is a lesson we can all learn from. When you explain the intent of the action you’re seeking, you give those you are leading direction to see the big picture, not just the immediate task. For example, it’s not just about “taking possession of the next hill” it’s about understanding that “taking the hill” is a step in the overall goal of “clearing the road.” When clear intent is given, it allows others think strategically and empowers them to embrace innovation, so long as it meets the overall goal.
Through our tour of the base, the group engaged with a number of individuals as they trained to fulfill their missions and learned a number of interesting facts:
- Camp Pendleton was acquired to train soldiers for World War II.
- The base often partners with nearby municipalities to use their infrastructure to conduct mission rehearsals for tactics such as bridge crossings.
- They have a number of training facilities that mimic real-world scenarios, such as Afghan villages, and some are built with Hollywood-style sets, pyrotechnics and use actors to bring these situations to life.
- Marines are seeing a culture shift in how mental health and seeking help for these issues are perceived, and more Marines are getting the help they need.
- The cabins of amphibious assault vehicles are anything but “roomy.”
- There are 7,500 homes and apartments on base.
- Six percent of the active duty Marines are women.
- 70,000 retirees live within 50 miles of the new Navy Hospital being built on base.
- The Marines provide an extensive “Transition Readiness” program to prepare individuals for life outside the military.
The cohort successfully achieved its goal of gaining a greater understanding of the role and impact Camp Pendleton has on its Marines and sailors, and our region. I think I speak for the whole group when I say we walked away humbled and proud of the courage and sacrifices our military makes to preserve our freedom.