The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), also known as 29 Palms, Twentynine Stumps, or simply the Stumps, is the United States Marine Corps' largest base. It is a census-designated place officially known as Twentynine Palms Base, California located adjacent to the city of Twentynine Palms in southern San Bernardino County, California. As of the 2000 census, the base had a total population of 8,413. The zip code of the base is 92278.
The base was redesignated on February 6, 1953 as Marine Corps Training Center, Twentynine Palms. By February 1, 1957, it grew to base status and was again redesignated as Marine Corps Base, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Only 70 Marines comprised the detachment at the Center. Manned by Marines from Camp Pendleton, its primary mission was to prepare the new base for the arrival of permanent personnel. By mid-December, 1952, a fresh 3rd Marine Division, with assistance from the 12th Marine Regiment, conducted the first large-scale, live-fire field exercise aboard the new base. The exercise gave Marines a glimpse of the facility's potential and foreshadowed the large-scale combined-arms exercises (CAXs) for which the base is now known.
In 1976, under the command of Brigadier General Ernest R. Reid, Jr., work began to add an expeditionary airfield to the base's growing infrastructure. When the first C-5 Galaxy landed in August 1978, it was apparent that the air-ground capability of the base was complete. Following completion of the expeditionary airfield, its name was changed to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center Oct. 1, 1978, and changed yet once more to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) on February 16, 1979. It was also during this time that plans for the Combined Arms Exercises were conceived. Supplanting an earlier exercise known as Desert Palm Tree, the new CAXs were remarkable in two respects: the practice of combined arms, and live-fire and movement during the exercises were unprecedented in scale. Just as noteworthy was the creation of a Tactical Exercise Control Center with the primary purpose of controlling, instructing and critiquing the exercises. In the words of base historian, Col. Verle E. Ludwig, USMC (Ret.), "Twentynine Palms was to be a permanent 'combined-arms exercise college' for all of the Marine Corps."
On Oct. 1, 2000, after 21 years as MCAGCC, the command was redesignated as Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Twentynine Palms, California. This redesignation accompanied a change in policy that placed MAGTF Training Command under the auspices of Training and Education Command, Headquarters Marine Corps, MCCDC, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. This arrangement simplifies what was occasionally a complicated chain of command. The expeditionary airfield and surrounding spartan accommodations for visiting units was nicknamed "Camp Wilson".
The base is currently home to the largest military training area in the nation (and the largest US base in the world), and consequently, the largest training program. The program known as Mojave Viper has become the model of pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment training. The majority of units in the Marine Corps will undergo a month at Mojave Viper before deploying to Iraq or a mixed training venue using the Mountain Warfare Training Center for Afghanistan. Live fire exercises, artillery, tank, and close air support training are used for training, in addition to the sprawling "Combat Town," a two-acre fabricated Middle Eastern village, complete with a mosque, native role-players, an "IED Alley," and other immersive touches.
In August of 2008, the Marine Corps submitted a land withdrawal application to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for approximately 422,000 acres contiguous to base as part of an ongoing study by the Marine Corps for possible base expansion, along with the establishment of corresponding special-use airspace, necessary to train a Marine Expeditionary Brigade at the Combat Center.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the base has a total area of 3.7 km² (1.4 mi²). 3.7 km² (1.4 mi²) of it is land and none of it is covered by water. Please note that this only applies to the main cantonment which includes the base housing; the entire installation is far larger, with 2,413.178 km² (931.733 sq mi) of surface area, all land. There was a resident population of 14,090 on this territory as of the 2000 census.
The terrain is consistent with steeply-sloped mountains and flat valleys running northwest-southeast, with elevations ranging from 1,800 to 4,500 feet above sea level. The training area is also characterized with ancient lava flows, as well as dry lake beds and arroyos (or wadis) that fill quickly during rain, presenting the danger of powerful floods and washouts that can move armored vehicles. Many abandoned mines dot the terrain, as well as unexploded ordnance and shrapnel, making unauthorized travel in the training areas dangerous.
The climate is described best as arid and upland desert. Summer temperatures can peak at 120° (F) and bottom at 15° in the winter, with an annual average of 67°. Precipitation averages to four inches annually, most often in the fall and winter months. Weather is generally clear and sunny days, with low humidity.
When the hit TV show Home Improvement was about to be sold into syndication, the producers decided to kick off the syndicated run with a brand new episode not shown on prime time. Much of that episode was filmed in 1995 aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms. The episode, titled "Tanks for the Memories," featured Tim and Jill racing tanks across the desert base.
Twentynine Palms has a reputation within the Marine Corps for its relative desolation and isolation, due to the harsh desert climate and the remote nature of the base. The city of Palm Springs, while 60 miles away via California State Route 62, is a popular destination, as well as the nearby Joshua Tree National Park. While many servicemembers consider the base to be a very undesirable post, giving rise to the nickname "29 Stumps" and an almost pop culture phenomenon about the installation's exaggerated desolation, others have thrived in the desert.
As of the census of 2000, there are 8,413 people, 912 households, and 904 families residing on the base. The population density is 2,287.5/km² (5,935.8/mi²). There are 1,006 housing units at an average density of 273.5/km² (709.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the base is 70.26% White, 10.38% African American, 1.40% Native American, 3.09% Asian, 0.29% Pacific Islander, 9.52% from other races, and 5.06% from two or more races. 19.56% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 912 households out of which 73.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 94.5% are married couples living together, 3.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 0.8% are non-families. 0.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 0.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 3.40 and the average family size is 3.40.
The age distribution of the base is: 15.4% under the age of 18, 67.0% from 18 to 24, 16.8% from 25 to 44, 0.7% from 45 to 64, and 0.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 21 years. For every 100 females there are 404.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 596.3 males. These statistics are consistent with the area's military status.
The median income for a household on the base is $29,500, and the median income for a family is $29,594. Males have a median income of $14,111 versus $17,014 for females. The per capita income for the base is $12,615. 12.1% of the population and 11.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 14.0% of those under the age of 18 and 0.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.