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Surfing and active use returns to Camp Pendleton beaches as Marines continue training for readiness

Army Soldiers prepare to off load the floating Causeway for Joint Logistics off the Shore (JLOTS) at Red Beach at Camp Pendleton. JLOTS is a joint U.S. military operation aimed at preparing amphibious assault landings. This is the first JLOTS event at Camp Pendleton since 2002. (U.S. Marine Corps/WikiCommons)

Just in time for Memorial Day, active use is allowed at Camp Pendleton’s recreational beaches.

That means the sands and marina at the Del Mar Beach Resort and San Onofre are open for running, swimming, paddleboard and kayaking.

“We’ve got a soft opening for PT on the beaches,” Brig. Gen. Daniel Conley, base commander at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Installations West, said. “We’re also keeping it open for surfing, swimming, and paddleboarding.

“But it is not open to large unit gatherings,” he said. “We’re keeping consistent with what’s going on in Oceanside and up in San Clemente.”

Gatherings there are limited to groups of five or less. If people can’t maintain six feet of social distance from others that aren’t members of a household, they must wear a face covering.

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The San Onofre beach cottages – available for active-duty, veterans and other Department of Defenses personnel – are also open for reservations in May and June. Reservations for July will start June 1.

Base-wide, social distancing is required at all facilities such as commissaries, exchanges and buildings. Face coverings are also required.

Coronavirus-related data is now released by the Department of Defense, instead of by individual installations or even service branches. On Friday, May 22, the DOD reported an 18% spike in the death toll for that week.

The Marine Corps has had the second-highest infection rate, with 196 infections per 100,000 Marines. There have been 517 diagnoses with 36 new cases confirmed in the last week.

With that in mind, base officials continue to emphasize vigilance in paying attention to the mandated restrictions.

“If we can stick to the rules, we have a much better chance of reopening,” Conley said. “If we can’t, we’ll be limited.”

Those same restrictions apply to Marines who continue to train across ranges on Camp Pendleton.

“Training for us didn’t stop,” said 1st Lt. Brian Tuthill, with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton.

Some Marines have gone to teleworking where it’s possible. An example here would be typical large briefings or gatherings. Those are now done with secure teleconferencing or secure video from work areas rather than in person.

Promotions -– done on the first day of every month – are important events for Marines.

Typically a large rank-and-file mass formations, the events are now held in smaller groups with key people spaced far apart.

But, video conferencing doesn’t work for the ongoing need to train the force.

“If you’re a machine gunner whose job is to help identify targets and change out barrels, that won’t work,” Tuthill said. “Or Marines working on AAVs, Ospreys or F-35s. They can’t do that in a video chat. If they’re passing tools at the 3rd Marine Air Wing, they’re very deliberate at wiping them off before passing them on.”

Marines who are riding shoulder-to-shoulder in a helicopter or the back of an Assault Amphibious Vehicle are pulling neck gators over the nose and mouth.

“Wherever Marines are near, they put on face covers as mitigating steps,” Tuthill said.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, who commands the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, addressed his Marines earlier in the week and emphasized the important role each has in taking responsibility to help stop the virus’ spread.

“Our ability to preserve the force starts at the individual level,” he told them. “We must remain ready to deploy and answer our nation’s call.”

Recently, Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were put to the test while conducting their Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation in preparation for their upcoming deployment. The training scenario focused on a fictional embassy reinforcement scenario. Marines had to run a helicopter raid and treat the wounded.

During training, Marines practiced social distancing and wore face-coverings.

“An MCRE (Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation) is a major milestone for them to deploy,” Tuthill said. “This tests Marines and certifies them in multiple steps for their deployment.”

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