View Full Version : Retired gunnery sergeant helps newcomers navigate the camp

09-20-03, 05:03 AM
Base basics

Retired gunnery sergeant helps newcomers navigate the camp

By Linda McIntosh

September 19, 2003

CAMP PENDLETON Freddie Darnell knows how it is to be new on base. "You get the feeling it's huge," Darnell said.

And it is.

The base covers 125,000 acres.

There are schools, libraries, gyms, shopping centers, beaches and barracks.

Add to that a hospital, a lake stocked with fish, an 18-hole golf course, a 40-lane bowling alley, a paintball park and a scuba center.

And that's not all.

"There are a lot of good services, and I want to let everyone know so they can use them," said Darnell, who works in Information and Referral Services.

Almost every weekday morning, he leads a Welcome Aboard Orientation for new service members and their families.

On average, his orientations draw 40 to 70 participants each week.

The retired gunnery sergeant helps newcomers navigate the base. In his classroom, he keeps a table full of handouts about base services. The largest and most comprehensive is the phone-book-size Welcome Guide. During orientation, Darnell familiarizes participants with the guide.

He uses a slide show and maps to give everyone a picture of places on base and where to find them.

"If this is the first station of duty, they might not have a clue, so it's rewarding when I can tell them what's there for them," Darnell said.

Darnell talks about where to get temporary lodging, who is eligible for base housing and how to set up the move.

Information is also available on the computer. Darnell introduces participants to two main Web sites: www.pendleton.usmc.mil and www.mccscamppendleton.com.

He tells them about educational opportunities on base and off, volunteer programs and employment options for spouses.

He gives an overview of child care programs, community support services and other personal services offered by Marine Corps Community Services.

"My job is to empower them to use the services," Darnell said.

After serving in the Marines for 21 years, and being stationed at Camp Pendleton most of that time, Darnell knows the base.

He got familiar with the layout directing traffic.

"I used to wave traffic through, and I got to know all the gates," he said.

If Darnell does not know where something is, he knows someone who does.

"I know quite a bit, but not all. If I'm not sure, I refer them," he said.

Orientation for newly arrived service members and spouses is from 8 to 10 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays at the Joint Reception Center, Bldg. 130132.

For information, call (760) 725-3400 or (760) 725-3802.