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Marines Willing To Leave Depot
San Diego Union-Tribune ^ | March 22, 2002 | James W. Crawley, Ronald Powell and Jeff McDonald, Staff Writers

Posted on 03/22/2002 3:53:17 AM PST by g'nad

San Diego Union-Tribune
March 22, 2002
Pg. 1

Marines Willing To Leave Depot

El Toro would be new site; city, airport covet land

By James W. Crawley, Ronald Powell and Jeff McDonald, Staff Writers

The Marine Corps has proposed relocating its historic Recruit Depot in San Diego to the former El Toro Marine air station in Orange County, a move that could make available valuable land near cramped Lindbergh Field, a congressman said Thursday.

Some local officials were surprised by the deal Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham said was broached by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones. They calculated the additional acreage wouldn't be more than a short-term solution for Lindbergh but were intrigued by the lure of land that could have a variety of uses.

"It would be nice to have an office park and industrial park and technology park" near the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, said Jack McGrory, San Diego's former city manager and now manager of Price House, a real estate and securities firm.

Cunningham said the military's plan would give Marines more training space at El Toro while Lindbergh could use the depot's 388 acres to realign its single runway -- reducing noise in Point Loma neighborhoods -- and provide land for more hotels or airport terminals.

A supporter of the proposal, Cunningham acknowledged, "We have a long way to go with this plan."

Jones couldn't be reached for comment.

The Recruit Depot has been the Marine Corps' West Coast basic training facility since 1923, handling about 21,000 men during its 13-week regimen. Drill instructors also are trained there.

The depot is north of the airport, sandwiched between the field, Pacific Highway and Barnett Avenue.

The depot's size forces the Marines to conduct weapons and tactics training, which lasts four weeks, at Camp Pendleton 40 miles to the north. There also have been rumors the boot camp could be on a base closing list.

Even so, the Marines have insisted the depot is vital.

The depot is the larger of two Marine recruit facilities in the nation, and the Corps has been opposed to closing it or moving it to Camp Pendleton, as has been suggested.

Local depot base commander Maj. Gen. Jan Huly said recently that the other camp, Parris Island, S.C., is in a swamp and, because of hot weather and the threat of hurricanes, has fewer training days than San Diego. A benefit of two recruit centers, Huly said, is the ability to boost training in an emergency.

Suddenly, it appears El Toro is an option for the Marines.

At 4,700 acres, El Toro and the adjacent Tustin helicopter base were deemed surplus and closed in 1998. The Marines' F/A-18 Hornet jets and CH-53 and CH-46 helicopters were moved to the renamed Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

News of Jones' proposal got swift reaction Thursday, both in San Diego and in Orange County, where voters recently rejected plans to build a commercial airport at El Toro in favor of a regional park.

San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, who learned of the proposal in a call from Cunningham Thursday, said afterward, "There are many questions that need to be answered before the city could take a position."

But City Councilman Byron Wear, whose district includes the airport, dismissed the depot's value to Lindbergh Field. The airport, built in the 1920s, is crowded, limits downtown high-rise development, and has been the subject of relocation studies for decades.

The commandant's proposal "in effect would be just a big Band-Aid to Lindbergh Field and would only add another five or six years of shelf life before we're back to having the same problems," Wear said.

Lindbergh covers about 550 acres and its single runway handled 207,000 takeoffs and landings last year. Airport planners say the runway will reach its maximum capacity of 282,000 takeoffs and landings between year 2012 and 2015.

Building a second 9,400-foot runway through depot land has been discussed by the San Diego Unified Port District's planners.

"Even under a second runway scenario, Lindbergh would still not meet the region's air service demand," said Ted Anasis, a planner for the port.

Last year, 15.2 million passengers used Lindbergh. By 2020, San Diego will have 28.6 million passengers.

A second runway should not be built, said Julia Craig Kelety, president of the Airport Coalition, a group that monitors airport noise and development issues.

"All it would do is involve a tremendous expenditure of money for only a few more years of (air passenger) capacity," she said. "I know it has a certain allure, but it's a dangerous trap to fall into."

Cost is another major issue.

Cunningham estimated $500 million would be needed to build state-of-the-art training facilities, classrooms and barracks at El Toro.

"We don't have enough money in the (federal) budget to move" the depot, he said. "We're fighting a war."

He believes the depot's land is valuable to the city and airport, which could help finance the move.

"I know it wouldn't be the whole $500 million, but it's very valuable property," Cunningham said.

Port District Executive Director Bruce Hollingsworth said the port and the new airport authority would have to study how the costs of relocating the depot and building the runway could be met.

"It's probably a fairly complex series of financial moves," Hollingsworth said.

But Lindbergh could benefit from the additional land, even if it is not used for a runway, he said, adding that it could be used for construction of terminals or for parking.

The El Toro proposal surfaced two weeks after Orange County voters approved a ballot measure to zone the former Marine base air station for parks and educational and cultural facilities.

Irvine City Councilman Chris Mears had heard nothing about the new proposal until Thursday. But he didn't like it.

"What we are interested in is establishing comprehensive planning and development at the base," said Mears, who has been a strident supporter of a public park. "The moving of that facility would generate a piecemeal development."

He also questioned whether the plan would pass muster with Navy brass, who repeatedly told Orange County they would abide by the will of the people.

While military officials knowledgeable about the proposal were unavailable late Thursday, congressional sources said the Marines probably could use at least 1,500 acres at El Toro, with the rest of the land for housing, other government facilities or park land.

Another plus for the Marines is the existing housing for military families at the base. The homes, built for the fighter base, could be used for boot camp training personnel and for Camp Pendleton personnel.

Staff writer Ray Huard contributed to this report.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: mcrdsandiego
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Stop the insanity! There is no way that this could be a cost effective option...
1 posted on 03/22/2002 3:53:17 AM PST by g'nad
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To: g'nad
I remember twenty years ago lying in my rack (bunk) and watching the planes take off at night- and wishing that I was on one of them. :-)

To this day, whenever I simultaneously smell newly-mown grass and hear an airliner, it takes me back there.

What a shame. I hope that they don't move out.

2 posted on 03/22/2002 4:00:24 AM PST by Riley
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To: g'nad; teacup; usmcvet;smedleybutler;truelove; ladyX
ahhh, who needs "Hollywood Marines" anyway :)

this is just suggestion 436.3333 on what to do about El Toro.
I can't see it happening.

Of course, I was trained where REAL Marines are the swamp....
so I don't really have an opinion on MCRD San Diego.

Semper Fi!

3 posted on 03/22/2002 4:30:57 AM PST by MudPuppy
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4 posted on 03/22/2002 4:33:37 AM PST by g'nad
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To: g'nad
Is nothing sacred? Generations of Marines will remember trying to hear drill instructor commands drowned out by the noise of departing aircraft. In the 50s this was part of our training, noise is inherent with combat. Severe punishment was delivered for not hearing. MCRD San Deigo should be hallowed ground in honor of the warriors trained there. Semper Fi!
5 posted on 03/22/2002 4:39:01 AM PST by Hardcorps
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To: Riley
g'nad, Some 33 years ago I too was going through boot camp at that location. Listening to and watching those planes land and take off and of course wishing I was on one of them. I also remember a little ditty when I was in the Corps that said "195 years of tradition unhampered by not one ounce of progress". As sad as it would be to lose the birthplace of so many hollywood Marines. Its high time they get more modern and better facilities. We have always gotten the hand me downs from the army then showed them how to use it properly. Lets build our own according to our needs. Marines are built not only in MCRD San Diego or Lejune but at the hundreds of duty stations we have been sent to. Iwo Jima, The Camp Carrol, Lebanon or the Persion Gulf. New traditions are started all the time that link us with the past glorys of the Corps. I say, give the Marines a new and better facility away from the dangers of that airport. If we are / were the first to fight lets us be prepared properly for it.
6 posted on 03/22/2002 4:39:30 AM PST by Rockiesrider
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To: MudPuppy
As a follow up Mud Pup somebody had to polish those sunglasses. It was a hard task and we were glad to do it! I think that flea bites have made you too sensitive.
7 posted on 03/22/2002 4:51:52 AM PST by Rockiesrider
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To: g'nad
I could see using Hangar One at Tustin for rappelling...

(For the uninitiated, Hangars One and Two at MCAS Tustin are BLIMP hangars. They are 1/4 mile across, and about 15-20 stories high at the doortops. I rappelled off the end of Hangar One to celebrate the USMC Birthday in 1984. That is one LONG drop!)

8 posted on 03/22/2002 4:58:52 AM PST by Poohbah
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To: Rockiesrider
I'll certainly concede that there's an argument to be made for moving MCRD. I'll just have to make sure to visit the place before they go. First impulse that I've had to go there since I went through it.

Twenty years ago exactly, I was either up at Edson or RFTD going up Mt. M*****F***** in the rain.
Second Phase, at any rate.

9 posted on 03/22/2002 4:59:02 AM PST by Riley
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To: MudPuppy
Oh, so you went to Phantasy Island, where women become Marines and recruits bivouac on a golf course.
10 posted on 03/22/2002 5:18:50 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: Poohbah
Rope Master or HRST Master or just a roper? Grunt or Aviator? FW or RW?03xx, 75xx, 6xxx?

The political and social ramifications for re-occupying those bases is well, uh like californication...

The incredibly political savy CMC, General Jones understands the fundamental importance of diversion and deception in any plan...especially in the political S&TAOR.
11 posted on 03/22/2002 6:12:24 AM PST by Slam
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To: Slam
Aircraft Maintenance. The story behind Poohbah's Rappel: the squadron Sergeant Major "invited" Poohbah and a couple of other hapless young Lance Corporals to join him in rappelling down from the platform above the hangar doors. We did it, and it was YEE-HAH! while it lasted...

I'm not afraid of heights; I'm not even afraid of falling. I merely have an appropriate degree of respect for the consequences of a high-velocity ground impact. Those hangars are about ready to fall down of their own accord...

12 posted on 03/22/2002 7:22:42 AM PST by Poohbah
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To: Poohbah
Very witty post poobah the sound of "thud" doesn't always mean a mortor round is out.
13 posted on 03/22/2002 7:29:57 AM PST by Rockiesrider
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To: g'nad
Ahh...what memories...of course, I was on the other side of the runway than MCRD, at the Navy bootcamp - and yes, every plane flying overheard I sure wish I was on!

RTC/NTC closed in the early 90's, though---what has become of it?

14 posted on 03/22/2002 7:33:26 AM PST by NorCoGOP
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To: Riley
2087 bump I graduated on Dec. 23 1981 and it would be a damn shame to see this institution replaced by a frigging generic industrial park. I have to admit the airfield is a bit short since some planes have to get up some speed then make a hard left without losing too much speed when going from the taxi way to the main runway just to make the takeoff.
15 posted on 03/22/2002 7:37:11 AM PST by junta
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To: MudPuppy
I always figured they had swimming pools, beaches, and tourist girls in bikinis out there. Of course, in boot camp that may have been a heart-breaking temptation. At PISC, we had mud, sand fleas, and that wonderful swamp smell in the air :-)
16 posted on 03/22/2002 7:54:18 AM PST by fnord
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To: NorCoGOP
RTC/NTC closed in the early 90's, though---what has become of it?

Two years ago I had the pleasure of going to a friend's change of command ceremony in San Diego. The sailors of his ship were using one of the barracks at RTC/NTC as berthing. The entire place looked like he**. My loathing of bill clinton grew exponentially that day.



17 posted on 03/22/2002 8:06:18 AM PST by The Shrew
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To: MudPuppy
Of course, I was trained where REAL Marines are the swamp....
so I don't really have an opinion on MCRD San Diego

You have the swamp ... we had Mount Mother,the Beast and island hopping campains.

Semper Fi
(remember, sand fleas have to eat too)

18 posted on 03/22/2002 8:20:55 AM PST by Centurion2000
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To: MudPuppy;g'nad; usmcvet;smedleybutler;truelove; ladyX
We just left Oceanside 2 1/2 years ago and let me tell you. These PC types won't stop until they get all the Marine Corps land. It's prime property! Look at what happen to Top Gun? they're gone. There has been an influx of non-natives, out siders who have moved into San Diego CO. and Orange Co. They want the property for private gain. They couldn't care less about our military. Out by Poway, a small group of Clinton supporters made a loud enough noise saying the planes flying over their expensive home brought down their property value and harmed the envirnment. Ultimitaly, Top Gun is gone, and the Maine Corps and Navy fliers were asked to only fly during special times.

The last time I was at the Depot was at the funeral of one of my best friends and mentors, General Day. How sad, that Marine Corps Depot is part of San Diego history. They should leave it alone.

19 posted on 03/22/2002 9:00:14 AM PST by Teacup
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To: g'nad
Does this bring back memories? Yup!

Early, early morning runs before breakfast, quonset huts, sand fleas,

Yes, those jets were the worse .. A constant tease wishing you were on one flying the heck out of that place

And the damn swabbies on the other side of the fence, what a bunch of weinies! :-P

How I spent my summer vacation ...MCRD San Diego July-October 1972 ...

I recently found out that the Big Boss down there was my Series Lieutenant, He made it to Brigadier General..

I saw him on Jeopardy once, he got his ass thrashed.. I couldn't believe he came this far.

God Bless Him and All those who are in the Depot Now.. Be Proud of the History. It would be sad to see it go...

20 posted on 03/22/2002 9:44:33 AM PST by NormsRevenge
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