Review: CCF in San Diego

Over the first week of half-term, the Marlborough College CCF headed out to San Diego for a visit to some of the US Navy and Marine installations there. The trip was a huge success on all fronts: fun, informative and incredibly cool!

Eight members of the U6 contingent as well as Mr. Moore, Mr. Bate, Mrs. Watts, Ms. Meehan and Dr. Doyle travelled out to San Diego (at the airport under the guise of a NATO squad in order to expedite the Border Control process). We visited Camp Pendleton, Miramar, the Coronado SEAL base and the USS Midway in port.

On the first day, after the evening flight into hot and sunny San Diego, the group woke up and headed out for the first pilgrimage to Denny’s, a staple of past trips and fueled up in the most American way possible: eggs, pancakes and milkshakes. We did a tour of several parts of the City of SD, the Coronado Peninsula and a record number of four beaches, excluding those with paid parking. We then made a trip to La Jolla to swim in the 33-degree heat and watch the seals (animals for now) bark in the sunshine. This day was primarily an exercise in overcoming jetlag and the extreme heat for October.

On the following morning, after an early wake up, the team headed to Denny’s for another stimulating 4000-calorie breakfast. We then drove up the highway to Camp Pendleton, a 506 km squared Marine base with a twenty-seven km coastline and more Marines (and amphibious vehicles) than you can shake a stick at. The base was incredible for our first visit, we were given the opportunity not only to view the Amphibious Battalion in action but also climb around their craft and pilot one of them in a simulator! We finished the visit with a look around the MCX- Marine Corps Exchange- for some brief shopping (and a shave) before heading back out.

Day three began again with Denny’s, I noticed the bill getting cheaper and cheaper each day due to the realization by many that they cannot eat a milkshake every day and still function properly. We continued in from breakfast to Miramar, the home of Top Gun and we were not disappointed. The field of planes, nearly reaching the size of the RAF, stretched out to the hills in the distance and we watched with awe as we made our way into easily the coolest briefing room yet (much like the hunger games as we watched the countless monitors and information before us). We then were taken to simulators for F/A 18’s, KC-130’s and CH-53’s, all very enjoyable and amusing to watch those ahead of you crash, and sometimes burn, before realizing how difficult it was doing it yourself. We travelled then to a Leatherneck Museum, showcasing many of the countless planes and their variations in all their retired splendor and meeting with two old Pilots who gave us a very cool tour. We finished the day as we began, with a massive meal, though this time at The Cheesecake Factory, with somehow even bigger portions.

Wednesday was less military oriented and we spent our day participating in a lovely bike ride up the coast to La Jolla. Before biking however we felt the need to rest from the regularly scheduled breakfast and eat at the hotel. The bike ride was a fun time and was going smoothly, right up until several of the rear line crossed an intersection right in the middle of a red light and subsequently when Mr. Bate broke his bike chain, through no fault of his own, and Ms. Meehan surrendered her bike to ride in the support car. We then traveled to the Mexican border to a shopping mall and had fun wandering the mall and looking at the wall separating San Diego from Tijuana.

Thursday was our day at Coronado and we went a bit fancier for Breakfast, Café 1134 on Coronado Island served as a delicious spot for our morning meal. We then hopped back in the vans to go The SEAL base. Ex-SEAL commander McTighe showed us around the base along with SEAL parachute instructor “Brad” if that was his real name. We were treated to a tour few will ever receive to look around the hallowed grounds of the West Coast SEAL teams and even one Quarterdeck. We were shown a SEAL and a sniper’s load out for missions by “Trevor” and then did some target shooting and threat assessment LAPD style, if we messed up. We then met up with the SEAL’s younger brother, SWCC, who do transport and mission with the SEALs. We then hit the nearby beach before finishing with a great dinner at Miguel’s Cocina with Mr. McTighe.

On Friday we got a lie in before going to retrieve our great leaders beret and then go to the USS Midway, an old aircraft carrier now permanently in dock. The ship was very cool and we got some insight into the lives of sailors in WWII. We then went to the mall again and finished the day with dinner at Denny’s as a last hurrah.

On Saturday, the final day, we were sad to see our American compatriot leave us before we played Crazy Golf and went to Mission Beach again and then went back to the airport to head home. Overall the trip’s food, bases and people were truly unforgettable.

Jack Kirkwood (TU U6)

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