TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --- A Southern California Marine training site could lose 8 percent of its personnel as part of the expected drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, officials said.
About 840 Marines attached to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center were slated to be deactivated at the end of May. Another 245 Marines connected with an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron will move to Hawaii this summer, base spokesman Jason Smith told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
About 13,000 Marines are currently stationed at the vast desert center 130 miles east of Los Angeles. Smith said 3rd Battalion Marines will be reassigned to other units.
First activated in San Diego in 1925, it was the first Marine unit to swarm Baghdad during the Iraq War, and its members helped pull down the large bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, according to the group's website.
Because there will be fewer deployments, the average daily population at Twentynine Palms was not expected to change, Smith told the newspaper.
The 932-square-mile military base in the Mojave Desert trains Marines in live-fire combat exercises. Several mock Afghan villages have been built at the base to train forces to fight in urban environments. The villages feature fake markets, hotels and other businesses, and they are complete with actors who create scenarios that pose a full range of challenges from peacekeeping to direct combat.