For close to two decades Twentynine Palms has served as the last pre-deployment destination for Marines heading to Afghanistan and Iraq. Twentynine Palms is home of the month long training evolution of Mojave Viper. Mojave Viper assesses a battalion’s combat readiness as a fighting force that is ready to deploy to the battlefield. For the past two decades Twentynine Palms has prepared marines to fight in the austere environments of Afghanistan and Iraq.

As, the Marine Corps prepares to fight in other climates outside of the Middle East, Alaska is becoming another potential place to prep for the next battlefield. Yes, you have read correctly…Alaska.

Recently, a lieutenant at West Point’s Modern War Institute wrote a paper discussing the potential benefits of training in Alaska. Marine 1st Lt. Walker D. Mills wrote a paper titled, “Terrain Matters: Training and Basing in Alaska”. He wrote the paper back in February as a student attending Defense Language Institute at West Point.

In the paper 1st Lt. Mills discusses Alaska potential as a new training ground. The paper discusses how Alaska provides perfect terrain for the Corps to train for littoral operations (aka coastal operations) and experiment with future fighting concepts. 

Discussing the benefits of an Alaskan training area 1st Lt. Mills wrote: “Our units need to be familiar with amphibious, bridging, fording, and small-boat operations,” Mills wrote. “Deploying a rotational force of Marines to Alaska, along similar lines as the Unit Deployment Program in Okinawa, Japan, would provide much-needed arctic and littoral training opportunities and serve as a forward presence and a deterrent in the Arctic.”

In the paper he continues to discuss the training assets already in Alaska that allow for dynamic airfield, disturbed operations, littoral training  operations. 1st Lt. Mills wrote, “The Aleutian Island chain stretches for hundreds of miles and is littered with austere and unused airfields left over from World War II. These islands and their airfields offer the perfect terrain for testing expeditionary airfield operations, distributed operations, and littoral operations.”

Mills also discussed in his paper the benefits of training in Twentynine Palms and how it has served the Marine Corps well. Yet, the Marine Corps must think outside of Twentynine Palms because of new actors, new climes, and terrains we may potential face.

“The lessons we learned in the Mojave served the force well in the Middle East, but lessons for the littorals and the Arctic will have to be learned in Alaska,” Mills wrote. 

Recently, the Senate is considering a review of the Marine Corps plan to distribute its forces across the Pacific. Within that distribution of forces throughout the Pacific the Senate is asking for “alternate locations for basing”. Potential places for basing are Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Oceania, and others, according to the Senate’s most recent version of the annual defense legislation. 

Do you think Alaska is a good training area for a new colder Mojave Viper? Do you think the Marines Corps should create a military installation in Alaska? Where do you think should be the next potential Marine Corps base? Let me know in the comments below.

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Why Alaska could become the Corps’ next Twentynine Palms (Marine Corps Times)

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