by Kasey Peacock

Students, staff and alumni from the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, recently toured the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Tour participants, most of them graduate students looking to pursue a career in social work, public health or counseling, expressed interest in touring the Combat Center as many of them hope to have a career affiliated with helping military personnel.

“My father was a Vietnam veteran, and I have always had a respect for everyone in the military,” said Jenna DiVito, an MSW candidate at the USC School of Social Work. “I grew up witnessing the effects the war had on my father and developed a passion for wanting to help military families in need.”

With a goal of preparing these students with knowledge for their future careers, Michael King, operations officer, G-5 Community Plans Liaison Office, led the tour and arranged for two speakers to be incorporated in the tour as well as sightseeing and base history.

The tour began with a question-and-answer exchange between tour participants and Niki Mcbain, the emergency manager for the Combat Center. The tour continued through Mainside and eventually led to Camp Wilson, where participants had the opportunity to experience the Battle Simulation Center.

The Battle Simulation Center works closely with the Marine Air Ground Task Force Integrated Systems Training Center, which focuses on command and control systems training. To date, the simulation center offers 10 different training simulators including rollover training, driver simulation and ambush tactics.

After leaving the simulation center, the group met at the base chapel to hear Natasha Ratchford, victims advocate.

Tour participant Alan Graves, who served in the U.S. Army and works with veterans and civilians who want to become better advocates, described the visit to the Combat Center as “absolutely valuable.”

“It helps us to understand the culture,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to help fathers engage more.”

The tour ended with a trip out to range 200, where participants got the chance to see training areas where Marines prepare for deployments overseas.

“It was interesting to see up close how realistic everything is for the Marines working up for deployment,” said DiVito. “It makes everything so much more real, and I am even more appreciative of what the military does on a day-to-day basis.”

Story first appeared on Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System.

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