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Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base Guide

Camp Pendleton, California, is a Marine Corps expeditionary training base near Oceanside in North San Diego County. The installation spans over 125,000 acres.

Camp Pendleton employs nearly four thousand civilians. Currently, there are more than 42 thousand active duty military members assigned. As in most of the area, the cost of living is substantial, but the area boasts many nearby attractions which add value to it, including parks and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

More than 38,000 military family members occupy base housing complexes. The daytime population is approximately 70,000 military and civilian personnel. More than 77,000 retired military personnel reside within a 50-mile radius.

Camp Pendleton History

Camp Pendleton was built based on the need for growth when the United States became involved in World War Two in the 1940’s.

In 1942, the United States Marines secured a 130,000-acre area of land, Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, and named it after Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton. The location fit the need for large training facilities and was well-located in Southern California.

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a national emergency which pushed forward a need for amphibious warfare training at a much larger scale than before. The first to train on-site at Camp Pendleton were the 9th Marine Regiment.

In the 1940’s, Camp Pendleton also employed the first female Marine Corps reservists. After World War Two, the site continued to serve the needs of the military community, training over 200,000 Marines before their assignments in Korea and Vietnam.

Decades later in the 1980s, Camp Pendleton led the way in expeditionary tactical training that merged infantry, aircraft, supply operations, amphibious and armored operations. The approach developed here has been used all over the world in places like Bosnia, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Today, 38,000 military family members call the base home. During the workday, the military and civilian personnel number over 70,000. Spanning over 2,500 buildings and stretching over 500 miles of road, Camp Pendleton’s innovation and sheer size have solidified its role as a major Marine Corps operational site.

Camp Pendleton Surrounding Area

The Marine Corps Mechanized Museum is a good place to start for those looking to explore near the base. Venturing from the base, Oceanside is the nearest city.

Oceanside has outdoor attractions such as Harbor Beach, Oceanside Pier, and plenty of places to try windsurfing and other aquatic sports. There are wine and border tours; visitors can take city tours, visit Legoland California, or check out the California Surf Museum.

San Diego is a short stint further than Oceanside; however, it has beach access and other major attractions, including the San Diego Zoo and USS Midway Museum. Major league sports, including the San Diego Padres, call San Diego home. PGA golf tours also occur here, making San Diego worthy of a day trip.

Camp Pendleton Mission & Units

Camp Pendleton is a training base that emphasizes combat readiness. It is said to be among the busiest of all Department of Defense installations, training active duty, Guard, and Reserve units in a variety of combat operations. Important units at Camp Pendleton and tenant units there have included:

  • 1st Marine Expeditionary Force
  • 1st Marine Division
  • 1st Marine Logistics Group
  • Marine Corps Installations-West
  • 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion
  • Wounded Warrior Battalion-West
  • Marine Corps Air Station at Munn Field
  • Marine Aircraft Group 39
  • Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego’s Weapons & Field Training Battalion
  • Navy Assault Craft Unit 5
  • Naval Hospital and 1st Dental Battalion
  • 4th LAR Battalion
  • 3rd Civil Affairs Group
  • 4th MLG (FWD West)
  • MAG 46, Detachment A
  • MAG 42
  • HMLA-775
  • 478th Transportation Company
  • 316th Quartermaster Company
  • 1394th Deployment Support Brigade
  • Joint Reserve Intelligence Center

Camp Pendleton Inprocessing and Check-In

Most non-student personnel must report to the Installation Personnel Admin Center (IPAC) Inbound, Bldg 13107, located on mainside. The IPAC Center can be reached at 760-763-6992; after hours, call 760-725-6271. Hours are Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Outside these hours, check in at the 24/7 duty post.

Students will check in directly to the school they are attending in Class A uniforms; reporting procedures will be given to students before arrival.

For Navy members assigned to the Naval Hospital, reporting and check-in procedures require visiting the Officer of the Day at the Quarter Deck, Bldg. H-100 Naval Hospital. All other Navy members are required to check in with the appropriate command at Building 1223 or Navy Personnel Office. For questions, call 760-725-1078.

All check-ins are required to be in Class A uniforms. Necessary lodging information will be given at check in. Those arriving for specialized training will be given instructions upon check-in.

Camp Pendleton Child Care

Child care at Camp Pendleton is handled by the base Child Development Center (CDC), offering accredited full-time, part-time, after-school care, and more for children six weeks through 12 years of age. Family Child Care, or (FCCs) are available until children are two years of age.

The CDC is open to the children of qualifying active duty military, DoD civilian workers, Reservists on active duty and during inactive training, plus DoD contractors.

There is a waiting list for on-base child care, as long as 12 months, depending on circumstances and demand. Family Childcare options, where on-base providers offer day care services from private homes that are property accredited, are also available.

PCS and TDY Lodging

Temporary lodging facilities at Camp Pendleton include the South Mesa Lodge, Ward Lodge, and the Pacific Views Lodge. Due to the high traffic of personnel and families in the area, reservations should be requested far in advance, at least a few months. South Mesa Lodge can be reached at (760) 763-7805.

Both Ward Lodge and Pacific Views Lodge reservations can be made six months ahead of time. Call  Ward Lodge at (760) 725-5304. Pacific Views Lodge can be reached at (760) 763-7805.

In addition to outside lodging, TLC quarters may be requested by military personnel or civilian Government employees with official orders traveling on a temporary assignment. Active Duty military members traveling on PCS orders have priority, making it essential to look into lodging before travel.

Camp Pendleton Housing

Service members are permitted to live on or off base. Camp Pendleton has approximately 7,000 housing units; however, these units can also require waiting periods, sometimes as long as a year and a half, for occupancy based on rank and specific housing needs of the family.

Off-site housing can be found in Oceanside and Fallbrook, Fallbrook being the more affordable of the two options. Approximately two-thirds of the military personnel assigned to Camp Pendleton live off-base in the local community.

The Housing Referral Office may be contacted for concerns and for maps of potential housing locations and information. Renters are strongly encouraged to obtain renter’s insurance and may inquire about the Rental Partnership Program. For questions and inquiries, call 760-725-6246.

The Family Housing Office encourages those who wish to live at Camp Pendleton instead of finding off-base housing to apply in advance by submitting a DD1746 Housing Application Form, which may be submitted to the Housing Office.

Related: Basic Allowance for Housing Calculator

Camp Pendleton Transportation

The two closest airports to Camp Pendleton are the San Diego International Airport and the Los Angeles International Airport. There are multiple options for getting to Camp Pendleton from the two major area airports.

San Diego International Airport

About 50 miles from Camp Pendleton, at the San Diego International Airport, The United Service Organization (USO) offers referrals for area shuttle bus services to Camp Pendleton. Call 619-296-3192 for more information. Taxis, car rentals, and ride-sharing services (depending on availability, local laws, and other considerations) are other options for arrival.

Los Angeles International Airport

Located about 80 miles from Camp Pendleton, the Los Angeles International Airport may be a more complex arrival. Taxi service, vehicle rentals, and ride-sharing services may be the best options for some new arrivals depending on timing, availability, and other factors. Check in advance for availability, pricing and convenience of arrival.

Camp Pendleton Vehicle Registration

Driving on Camp Pendleton requires registration in a system known as DBIDS, which stands for Defense Biometric Identification System. This is considered a “physical access control system”. All new arrivals PCSing to Camp Pendleton will be enrolled in DBIDS “after their first ID scan upon entering Camp Pendleton” according to the official site.

Camp Pendleton visitors are required to get DBIDS passes at the Camp Pendleton Visitor Center. Contractors & vendors will apply for their DBIDS credentials at Base Access Control.

All drivers and their vehicles operating on the installation must comply with State of California rules, including insurance minimums. They may be required to register their vehicles with the state upon arrival, including a smog emissions test based on California standards.

Drivers under 25 may be required to attend and show proof of a Drivers Improvement Course within a short time of relocating. All drivers are required to carry current liability insurance, current registration, and “proof of a valid Real ID Act compliant [or state approved extension] driver’s license. ”

Camp Pendleton Schools

Several schools are local to the Camp Pendleton base. The Camp Pendleton School Liaison Officer (SLO) can help parents make decisions and guide enrollment of children. Children will attend school based on their home address and possibly special circumstances.

Contact the SLO at (760) 763-7385 for specific guidelines and details. When enrolling at any of the schools aboard Camp Pendleton, bring student immunization records, grades/report cards, and birth certificates.

Students will be required to be up-to-date on immunizations as per the San Diego Health and Services official site. For Kinder through eighth grade students, these schools include:

  • North Terrace Elementary (757) 901-7500
  • Stuart Mesa K-8 School (760) 901-7700
  • Mary Fay Elementary School (760) 731-4050
  • San Onofre K-8 School (760) 731-4360
  • Mary Fay Middle School (760) 731-4050
  • Santa Margarita Middle School (760) 901-7900

Busing may available for high school students as there are no options available on base. To arrange for bus service for high school students, call the School Liaison at 760-763-7385.

Colleges And Universities

Camp Pendleton’s Base Education Center fosters relationships and offers programs through the following universities in a combination of on-base in-person classes and online classes to pursue degrees. Service members may apply and attend the following universities through the Base Education Center:

  • National University (4 Year Programs Available)
  • Park University (4 Year Programs Available)
  • Palomar College (2 Year Programs Available)
  • Central Texas, Based in Commerce
  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University

Contact the Camp Pendleton Base Education Center at (760) 725-6660 to learn about your options at the University Center or any of the individual schools represented.

Related: Ultimate GI Bill Guide

Camp Pendleton Contacts

Camp Pendleton
Building 13150
Office 155
Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, CA 92055

Important Camp Pendleton Telephone Numbers

  • Emergency/Ambulance/Fire 911
  • Emergency Maintenance  (760) 725-4683
  • MITSC West Watch Officer (760) 763-7989
  • Marine Corps Base/Marine Corps Installations West – (760) 725-5061
  • 1st Marine Expeditionary Force – (760) 725-4237
  • 1st Marine Division – (760) 725-5201
  • 1st Marine Logistics Group – (760) 725-5966
  • Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton – (760) 763-1154
  • Marine Aircraft Group 39 – (760) 725-3900
  • School of Infantry-West – (760) 725-7480
  • Pass and ID Office North (760) 763-6476
  • Information & Referral (Marine & Family Programs) (760) 725-6090
  • Financial Management Program (760) 725-6098
  • Relocation Assistance (760) 725.6090/5704 (DSN) (312) 365-6090
  • School-Age Care Program (760) 763-0649
  • School Liaison Officer (760) 763-7385
  • Family Member Employment Assistance Program (760) 725-4737
  • Ward Lodging Facility (Hostess House) (760) 725-5304

Related: Ultimate Military Benefits Guide

About the author

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Kena Sosa is an award-winning author, filmmaker and percussionist. She
earned her BA from OLLU and her MBEGT from SMU. She published two
award-winning children’s books. Kena has written for CBS/DFW Local and
Multicultural Review Magazine. She was the Guest Editor for the Fall/Winter
2023 ChildArt Magazine issue. Kena has written for Recon Media since 2023.