Military Life

4 of the worst things about training in 'Mojave Viper'

Mock IEDs attacks, fire and maneuvering drills, and scrambled medical evacuations are just a few exercises Marines and sailors run while training at Mojave Viper. "The Viper" takes place in Twentynine Palms, California, the largest training base of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Although each scenario the Marines encounter is played out under strict supervision, it's considered the closest thing to war a young infantryman are exposed to before facing the real enemy. The training takes place in a desert landscape that closely resembles the environment troops will meet in Afghanistan — and it sucks.


1. It's f*cking filthy

Infantry Marines and sailors from various bases show up to Camp Wilson, where their desert training will take place. 99.9 percent of the time, the Marines occupy the K-spans located on the grounds. Those K-spans are rarely cleaned before the incoming troops arrive, which causes problems.

Plus, since you're training in an open-desert landscape, the wind will blow all types of viruses and bacteria about. This, in conjunction with already-dirty living conditions, causes troops to come down with all kinds of illness, like pink-eye and a variety of sniffles. Keep your mouth closed and your eyes covered whenever possible.

2. The summer heat

If you're unlucky, you'll be sent to Mojave Viper during the late spring and early summer months. You better start getting ready for the heat.

Not only is it freakin' hot in the direct sunlight, but the blazing heat is made even worse by training in your full PPE gear. Welcome to hell!

Cpl. Dwight Jackson, a working dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, cools off his dog, Hugo while training in Twentypalms, Calif.

3. The cold nights

If you think the days are bad, just wait until the sun goes down and the temperatures drop. Hell has just frozen over.

Lance Cpl. Charles Wohlers, 1st LE Gunner, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, prepares his gear for the cold wear before the Motorized Fire and Movement Exercise exercise on range 114, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

(Photo by Pfc. William Chockey)

4. Showering in a pool of smallpox

While stationed in the camp, most troops receive a smallpox vaccination on their upper arm. This vaccination creates a small blister which takes a few weeks to heal and may leave a scar. However, during that healing period, troops still have to shower to maintain proper hygiene.

As you shower, water will run over the blister and onto the floor. When multiple troops shower at the same time, the plumbing usually gets backed up, essentially creating a nasty pool of smallpox-laden backflow. Great.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Breneiser, right, gets vaccinated against smallpox by Hospital Corpsman Nathan Stallfus

(Photo by MC1 Nathanael Miller)