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thedrifter
11-22-05, 01:41 PM
Corps consolidates some Western bases
Commanders use regionalization to boost training

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Out here, in the vast Southwest, military training — not money savings — is the driver behind the new regionalization of the Marine Corps’ collection of bases and stations.

“It’s always about making better war fighters,” Maj. Gen.-select Michael R. Lehnert said after the Oct. 21 ceremony held here that officially gave birth to the new command organization. “It is not about saving money. It’s about increased effectiveness.”

The move to pull seven installations into a single regional command, called Marine Corps Installations West, “makes better uses of the resources and the bases that we have,” Lehnert said.

Commanders here see the regionalization as a way to get the most out of the training opportunities by tying separate training facilities ranges together in a network so units can tap into available facilities. Regionalization could help cut the red tape, such as if a battalion could use a firing range at another base.

“It happens. We just have to be more effective,” Lehnert said. “The Marine Corps is moving farther and faster than ever before, so now we have to use all of the bases” and coordinate with one another, he said. “We think of the bases as a constellation.”

The erosion of military training, fueled in part by encroachment complaints and environmental limitations, “has necessitated this reorganization,” Lt. Gen. John Goodman, Marine Forces Pacific commander, told the crowd at the ceremony. “Camp Pendleton is not big enough to train the full Marine Expeditionary Force.”

If I MEF sends a force ashore here for amphibious assault training, for example, that force will be able to continue its training inland, splitting off forces to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in the Sierra Mountains or to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the desert at Twentynine Palms. Although done to a smaller degree in past training exercises, better coordination through the region’s umbrella will make it easier, Lehnert said.

“In the past, they would have to deal with three or four bases,” a process that took longer, he said. With the new regionalization, “it just makes it a lot easier … to support the war fighter and the war fighter’s family.”

Lehnert left his post as the Camp Pendleton base commander, but didn’t move: His new assignment as MCI West commander is in the same headquarters building he’s occupied since last year. Taking the base’s helm is Col. John Coleman, an experienced infantry officer and most recently I MEF’s chief of staff.

The regionalization will eventually mark an end to one San Diego-based command. Marine Corps Air Bases Western Area will be stood down in about 90 days, Lehnert said. Its commander, Brig. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, is picking up command of San Diego-based Expeditionary Strike Group 3. It’s expected that its oversight of air ranges and aviation facilities would be merged into the new region’s responsibility.

Officials said the regionalization, as of yet, won’t result in “anticipated” job cuts, although they said that’s still undetermined as command headquarters, base functions, services, logistics, transportation, ranges and other operations are reorganized.

“More people will be dual-hatted,” Lehnert said, adding that money savings aren’t out of the question. “If we find ways where we can do things more efficiently, we’d do that.”