The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), also known as 29 Palms, is a sprawling installation located at the southern tip of San Bernardino County, California. With over 998 square miles, it is the largest Marine Corps base in the world. Most of the base is set aside for training, and the main base area, or “Mainside,” is compact and only takes about 15 minutes to traverse. MCAGCC is home to the 7th Marine Regiment, the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School (MCCES), 1st Tank Battalion, and Naval Hospital 29 Palms, along with several other units.
The Combat Center is adjacent to the town of Twentynine Palms, an oasis in the Mojave Desert. The arid climate, abundant sunshine, and clean air made Twentynine Palms an ideal refuge for soldiers recovering from lung damage caused by gas exposure in World War I. The same qualities that made the encompassing Morongo Basin a successful desert rehab also drew other health seekers to snatch up 160-acre land grants from the government. Several evolutions of Navy and Marine Corps installations have been built in this area over the last 70 years, but today 29 Palms is the Marine Corps’ premier training facility.
Moving to the High Desert can sound intimidating, but it can be a truly remarkable experience if you’re open to it! The nearest city (with a Target) is Palm Springs, located roughly an hour and 15 minutes “down the hill.” There are options like Walmart and grocery stores nearby, but you’ll learn to rely on Amazon Prime living here! The local schools have fantastic resources for homeschooling, which is a popular choice for students ranging from kindergarten all the way through high school seniors. Naturalists, photographers and the outdoorsy treasure this region because of the diverse wildlife, incredible rock formations, the ancient and protected Joshua Tree, and the absence of light pollution that facilitates some of the most spectacular sunsets and stellar nighttime displays imaginable.
An important thing to be aware of when moving to the desert is energy consumption. Be prepared for a utility cost shock. There are two main methods for cooling your home, refrigerated air conditioning and “swamp coolers.” The most effective cooling system is air conditioning, but you will pay dearly for the amount of electricity it uses. A swamp cooler, or evaporative cooler, is a much more energy efficient system, but with a few drawbacks. A swamp cooler pulls air from outside and adds moisture to it, thus cooling it down. This can typically produce humidified air that is up to 20 degrees cooler than the dry air from outside. However, temps in the desert can reach 100 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and during more humid months the end result can be a less-than-ideal attempt at cooling. Homes with swamp coolers are sometimes harder to sell, and they require more maintenance. A hybrid of both air conditioning and evaporative cooling is a great option if you can find it. Otherwise, just be prepared for hidden costs.
On base housing at 29 Palms comes very highly recommended and is a popular choice for many, especially families. Considerations such as schools, high utility costs off base, and the tight-knit military community are the positives to living on base. However, there are some fantastic communities nearby that can be a great fit for you and your family if you choose to live off base.
We’ve heard it said that 29 Palms is one of those “love it or hate it” duty stations; some people never look back, and some return and retire here. The lack of distractions (i.e. amenities) has the unintended effect of fostering friendships that can last a lifetime. With the limitless beauty to take in and the quiet pace that allows ample opportunity to do so, you’re encouraged to just stop and smell the roses, or at least the desert wildflowers.
It’s also been said of 29 Palms, “You’ll cry when you go, and you’ll cry when you leave!”
Family Housing Office
Twentynine Palms, CA 92278
Hours: M, T, Th, F: 0800 to 1530
Hours: W: 0800 to 1400 (760) 830-6611
Lincoln Military Housing District Office
Twentynine Palms, CA 92278 (760) 368-4500