Camp Pendleton is the best place in the world for Marines to be stationed.
Sorry Hawaii Marines, but I'm calling it for Pendleton. That giant wonderful base found between San Diego and Orange County on the Pacific coast is simply the best.
I've been stationed or visited Marine bases in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Okinawa, 29 Palms, Camp Lejeune, and others. But no place is better than Camp Pendleton, in my opinion. Here are six reasons why:
1. Camp Pendleton is home to the oldest and largest active-duty Marine division.
Marines at Camp Pendleton who fall under the "Blue Diamond" can be especially proud of their heritage. With roughly 25,000 Marines and sailors in its ranks, 1st Marine Division is "the oldest, largest and most decorated division in the United States Marine Corps," according to its official website.
It has also had some notable commanders, like the legendary Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who led the division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Then there are others who made 1st Mar Div their home at some point before they rose to the top as Commandant of the Marine Corps: Gens. Vandegrift, Shoup, Gray, and Dunford (who will soon take over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs).
You also can't beat the motto: "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy."
2. Pendleton is located right between two amazing cities.
Camp Pendleton is situated right between Los Angeles and San Diego. Running about 20 miles of I-5 from San Clemente to Oceanside, the sprawling installation offers countless opportunities for fun off-base. Many junior Marines visit Oceanside while in training at the School of Infantry, but others know to head further away to San Diego for awesome bars, culture, and parks, or they head further north and brave L.A. traffic.
And for those stationed on the north end of the base, Orange County offers amazing beaches, clubs and bars, and perhaps most importantly ...
3. Burritos, burritos, and burritos. Oh, and tacos too.
Pedro's Tacos in San Clemente claims the title of "world's best tacos since 1986" and I believe them. While its awesome fish tacos are about 10 minutes outside of Pendleton's northernmost gate, there are plenty of great Mexican food options to choose from in southern California.
Marines also rave about Colima's Mexican Restaurant in Oceanside, which offers monster carne asada burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and everything else you'd expect. They are also known for the "California burrito," which has french fries in it. Trust me, it's good.
4. The weather is perfect.
Marines stationed in the desert of Twentynine Palms, California are sweating their butts off year-round, while Camp Lejeune's weather can be hot, pleasant, or freezing, depending on the time of year. Then there's Okinawa, which is so humid, I'm overheating just thinking about it.
Some might argue in favor of Hawaii for this point, but let's not forget the mysterious rain that comes out of nowhere when there are no clouds in sky.
Southern California offers the best weather overall. The average annual temperature is around 62 degrees, but that's only due to the winter months bringing temps down slightly below 70. Most of the year, the region enjoys sunshine, little rain, and temperatures in the upper 70s and 80s.
Which leads me to the next point:
5. You can literally go surfing and snowboarding in the same day.
If you are into surfing, Marines in Hawaii have the obvious edge over everyone else. But you can't beat southern California in this boast: You can go surfing on Saturday morning and be snowboarding on a decent mountain in the same afternoon.
This amazing feat can be worked out by hitting up one of the best surf breaks in the world at Trestles (located at San Onofre beach on base) before driving up to Mount High or Big Bear — a little over two hours away — to hit the slopes.
6. When you leave the base, you are actually leaving the base.
At my first base in K-Bay, Hawaii, most Marines left base for the local area of Kailua or took the drive out to Waikiki for the weekends. But since it was a tiny island, you could never really escape the base: High-and-tight haircuts and Marines were everywhere (among other military service members).
Hawaii may be an island, but most Marine Corps bases are similar. The towns outside it are filled with Marines (and higher-ups). It's kind of a bummer if you are filling up your gas tank in Jacksonville, N.C. (outside of Camp Lejeune) and told your civilian clothing choices are incorrect and you need to go fix yourself.
Camp Pendleton doesn't really have this problem, especially if Marines are heading out to the larger cities of L.A. and San Diego (Oceanside is another story).
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.