MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
This year’s annual Sergeant Major and Master Gunnery Sergeant West Coast Reunion was held on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 17.
During this two-day event, attendees had the opportunity to tour various facilities on base, while others competed in a golf tournament. A dinner took place at the Pacific Views Event Center the evening of the 17. Relaxing at a Del Mar Beach picnic concluded the events on Aug. 18.
"It's very important to get everyone together. It builds camaraderie and allows for us to network between both active duty and retired," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Campos, the G-3 operations chief for MCB Camp Pendleton.
While the Golf tournament was getting the ball rolling, the tour bus was arriving at the Infantry Immersion Trainer. Six E-9’s and their guests were given a tour of the training facility designed to help decrease the chance of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Marines deploying to the Middle East.
"The group was walked through the whole process of how infantry Marines are put through the IIT. They were given an initial brief, and then conducted a walkthrough of both the indoor facility and the outside setup," Campos said. "The tour included information on what the Marines are trained to look for and how to react in different scenarios. They were also given a debrief and shown how the instructors record and play back the footage for constructive corrections."
After getting an inside view of how pre-deployment training has changed in recent years, the tour proceeded to 33 Area, Camp Margarita barracks, to see how Marine's living quarters have evolved.
The barracks manager guided the group through the common areas and into a room to see how the junior Marines live. The group of sergeants major and master gunnery sergeants shared stories of the living conditions when they were active-duty and marveled at how barracks life has changed.
"They're terrific, I'm jealous," laughed Robert S. Ynacay, a retired sergeant major. "I do feel like maybe the Marines aren't as close though. I joined in the 50's and we all lived together and talked to each other about our most intimate problems and discussions. We knew each other as family."
The Mechanized Museum was the next stop on the tour. Walking through the museum, the retirees would periodically stop to share stories of missions and jobs they have done which were made possible because of vehicles like the (M274-A5) 4x4 truck platform, more commonly known as the “Military Mule."
"I remember using one of the vehicles there,” Ynacay said. “We used it for anything from bringing rations to the Marines, to taking garbage out of camp."
The last stop on the tour was to see the Wounded Warrior Battalion Hope and Care Center.
Establishing a place to help Marines overcome their physical and mental wounds was a new experience for many of the attendees. Touring the facility and speaking with a few of the Marines who receive treatment and support from WWBn. raised conversations about the Marine Corps putting in extra effort to take care of the Marines today.
"I get tears when I talk about wounded Marines. I remember going to see my Marines in the hospital when they stepped on booby-traps and lost their limbs," Ynacay said. "All the new equipment for repairing Marines is amazing."
The evening ended with a professional dinner with old friends, gifts and give-aways. The next day the reunion came to an end after a group photo on Del Mar Beach, where the sergeants major and master gunnery sergeants enjoyed a picnic together.
"The reunion went great. Gen. Coglianese even stopped by to say a few words at the picnic," Campos said. "I plan to attend the reunion next year, wherever it's going to be held."