Camp Wilson, 29 Palms

Camp Wilson, 29 Palms

Sgt. Grit,

Attached is a picture of me and a buddy named Max Lesko outside the old tin and wooden huts at Camp Wilson CAX 29 Palms, California in June 1982 before leaving for a Med Cruise and eventually Beirut. One day just after arriving, but before going on the actual training exercise a few of us decided to hump on over to the base of the mountain range. Needless to say, we never got there. We kept turning around and looking back at Camp Wilson and it kept getting smaller, but the base of the mountain never got closer and we just turned around and headed back. That Monday we were trucked out to the area where the live-fire operations were taking place, but I never did pay attention to how far the base of the mountain range was from the camp. Can any Jarhead or Doc who was ever at Camp Wilson tell me how far it actually is from Camp Wilson to the base of the mountain in the photo?

Incidentally, it was during this time that I was involved in a minor Helicopter crash. One evening during a night Helo operation (Lima 3/8 was a Helo Assault Unit) several of us 0331 m60 machine gunners were cross-training with a 50 cal machine gun team and we were loaded onto a CH53. This next part I am unclear of as my memory is a bit cloudy, but we were fully combat loaded down both sides of the benches of the 53 and I think we had a jeep in there with us as part of the cargo that belonged to the 50cal gun crew. The 53 lifted and moved up and forward as they typically did on takeoff, but the bird started shuttering and then dove forward and crashed. It was pitch black outside in the desert so we had no idea how high we were, but I later was told that we were only about 20 feet off the ground when the 53 pitched forward and crashed. We were seat-belted into the bench seats, but the crew-chief was thrown forward and bounced forward to the cockpit because he was just supported by a lanyard I believe. We were not injured and the crew chief was only slightly hurt, but I never heard any more about the incident. Is there any Jarhead or Doc reading this that recalls that incident?

Semper Fi
Mike Kunkel
Cpl 0331
Lima 3/8 Weapons Platoon

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!


  • Stephen M Wilson

    You don’t hump Alligator Ridge. Alligator Ridge humps you.

  • Earl R Gilpin

    Great stories my fellow Jarheads, hope that all you Beirut veterans have had a chance to check out the memorial at CLNC, and to attend the annual remembrance of the ones we lost in Beirut and Grenada during that time frame, I was with 22nd MAU both deployments and last October marked 35 years since we liberated Grenada and had the bombings in Beirut, Embassy in the spring(April) and “Barracks” Oct 23rd, to think that Al Gray(MARINE) main speaker, that’s always how he introduces himself and he stays behind to talk to all that want a moment of his time, in his 90’s, as spry as ever got a standing ovation and current commandant, a sprinkling of applause, all that served under General Gray respect the Hell out of he Marine, What a Warrior.

  • Mike Kunkel

    Lol. Thanks Stoney. How about a box of grid coordinates, or a shoulder holster for a 105 recoilless rifle? Semper Fi Devildog!


  • Mike Kunkel

    I was stationed at Camp Geiger, NC. We were only out at 29 Palms at Camp Wilson for live fire training. We did go back into mainside several times, but not long enough to meet any other Marines.
    Semper Fi Devildog!

  • ‘Stoney’ Brook

    Mike, if you do a Google search there’s several USMC sites for Camp Wilson and you can query about the distance. After all these years, surely someone has done a laser check on the distance. Or at least sent some new artillery Private with a tape measure to do it … like being sent for a bucket of muzzle blast, a battery adjusting wrench, an ST-One or TR-Double E.

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