DK Loo and Vernon McGee
Our April caravan found the Rovin’ Pebbles RV Club headed to Camp Pendleton Marine Base at Oceanside, CA. It was a first-time destination for our club. The trip was made possible by the personal contacts of our club member, retired Coast Guard Warrant Officer Vernon McGee, with the leadership of Camp Pendleton Historical Society (CPHS), along with months of preparations by wagon masters with Vernon as the lead. Retired Marines Lt. Colonel Mike O’Neil and MGySgt Mike Lewis from CPHS hosted our five-day caravan plus an invitation to their annual charity golf tournament.
Twenty-seven members from twelve families made the 340-mile trip. A majority of us elected to stop overnight at Yuma to make it a more enjoyable two-day drive.
Vernon and Nancy McGee arrived early to Camp Pendleton to prepare for our arrival. Their preparations helped us pass through quickly at the main gate on April 24. Arriving at the Del Mar Beach Resort, Vernon had again secured a block of full hook-up RV sites that were right on the sandy beach. We found ourselves only about 100 yards from the Pacific Ocean! A couple of families had also elected to stay at the resort’s beach front villas. After everyone had settled in their sites, the wagon masters served a welcoming taco dinner.
Early the next day, we car-pooled to a fully replicated Afghan village designed as a trainer for the Marines and other military members. A local expert gave us a tour of the facility. It has buildings, simulated figures in mud rooms, shops, and streets all blanketed by cameras, adjustable lighting, controllable pyrotechnics, sound, and even smell. All of the effects were controlled by instructors at advanced computers. In the afternoon, we toured their six HUMVEE trainers. Many of us drove the HUMVEEs while others climbed on top and with the help of marine instructors, took turns firing the 50-caliber machine gun.
Friday was their Charity Golf Day. The golf tournament was three paying golfers joined by a marine to make up a four-some for 18 holes of golf sandwiched between breakfast and lunch. Marines selected had either been wounded or had freshly returned from deployment. While some of our members played in the charity, others enjoyed a day off.
On Saturday, we took in a guided tour of the LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushioned) facility, its engine, component repair shops, and aboard several LCACs. About 35 of these LCACs are deployed and maintained in this west coast facility. The primary mission of these LCACs is to provide transport of personnel and equipment between ship and shore. In fact, an LCAC can transport one 60-ton main battle tank at up to 40 MPH on the water.
We had a potluck dinner that night as we bid farewell and thanked our CPHS hosts for helping us learn so much about Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps.