Before the deployment: Camp Pendleton Marines train in a variety of climates and locales for a WestPac deployment, including desert training at Twentynine Palms and Fort Irwin, CA, cold weather training at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at Bridgeport, CA (image right), and amphibious training at Camp Pendleton, CA (images below).
Life aboard ship: For Marines, life aboard ship is very cramped. Long lines are commonplace for chow, haircuts, the bank, and more. Field days (thorough cleaning) are conducted regularly to insure cleanliness and also to give Marines something to do. On regular deployments, the fleet may stay out to sea for three weeks or longer between port visits, though port stops are often more frequent. But there are positives as well. There are places on the ship for Marines to “hang out” and observe the ocean. Sharks, dolphins, flying fish, and sometimes even whales near Japan can be observed. At night, in the middle of the ocean a thousand miles from land, you will probably never again see so many stars. If you look closely, you can even see satellites cruising across the sky. And of course, the ship takes you to very interesting places, including Hawaii, the Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Guam and other places.
Rough seas: Rough seas are often encountered, and sometimes the fleet must outmaneuver typhoons and severe storms. The smaller the ship, the more your ride will be up-and-down and side-to-side. During rough seas, chow lines are considerably shorter. There’s a reason why there are windshield wipers on this destroyer (image left).
Korea: Training is often conducted in South Korea in areas near Pusan and Pohang. Team Spirit is a large-scale annual exercise that involves joint training with Korean military forces, including these ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines (image right). These exercises are a major irritant to North Korea. Except for a few student protestors, the Korean people are very thankful for the Americans’ presence. South Koreans are very friendly, and will often give food and even money to Marines and troops on training exercises.