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Fort Irwin & The National Training Center
San Bernardino County, California
National Training Center SSI.svg
NTC Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
Type Training Center
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1940
In use 1940–1942;
In use
United States Army
Controlled by US Army Training and Doctrine Command
Garrison COL Kurt J. Pinkerton[1]
BG Terry Ferrell[2]
Occupants 1942-08-14 – 1942-10-20
7th Infantry Division
Aerial view of Fort Irwin
Fort Irwin
census-designated place
Lua error in Module:Location_map at line 510: Unable to find the specified location map definition: "Module:Location map/data/California" does not exist.Position in California.
Coordinates: 35°14′47″N 116°40′55″W / 35.24639°N 116.68194°W / 35.24639; -116.68194Coordinates: 35°14′47″N 116°40′55″W / 35.24639°N 116.68194°W / 35.24639; -116.68194
Country USA
State  California
County San Bernardino
 • Total 7.053 sq mi (18.267 km2)
 • Land 7.053 sq mi (18.267 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)  0%
Elevation[4] 2,454 ft (750 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 8,845
 • Density 1,300/sq mi (480/km2)
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP Code 92310
Area code(s) 760
GNIS feature ID 2628733
U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Fort Irwin CDP

Fort Irwin & the National Training Center (NTC) is a major training area for the United States Military and is a census-designated place located in the Mojave Desert in northern San Bernardino County, California. Fort Irwin sits at an elevation of 2,454 feet (748 m).[4] The 2010 United States census reported Fort Irwin's population was 8,845.

The base is part of the Installation Management Command (IMCOM). The opposing force at the NTC is the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Blackhorse Cavalry, who are stationed at the base to provide an enemy force to units on a training rotation at Fort Irwin.

Fort Irwin works within the R-2508 Special Use Airspace Complex.


The Fort Irwin area has a history dating back almost 15,000 years, when Native Americans of the Lake Mojave Period were believed to live in the area. Native American settlements and pioneer explorations in the area were first recorded when Father Francisco Garces, a Spaniard, traveled the Mojave Indian Trail in 1796. During his travels, he noted several small bands of Indians and is believed to have been the first European to make contact with the Native Americans of this area.

Jedediah Smith is thought to have been the first American to explore the area in 1826. A fur trapper, Smith was soon followed by other pioneers traveling the Old Spanish Trail between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Bitter Springs, on the eastern edge of Fort Irwin, was a favorite stop over site.

In 1844, Captain John C. Fremont, accompanied by Kit Carson, was the first member of the US Army to visit the Fort Irwin area. Captain Fremont established a camp near Bitter Springs that served travelers on the Old Spanish Trail, and later the Mormon Trail, linking Salt Lake City to California. This camp was later to become an important supply center for pioneers during California's settlement and gold rush.

The California Gold Rush brought prosperous trade and unexpected trouble to the area. As California grew, and more travelers used the trails to enter the territory, raids and horse stealing became a problem. In 1846, the Army's Mormon Battalion patrolled the Fort Irwin area to control the raiding and horse stealing. During the Indian Wars the Army constructed a small stone fort overlooking Bitter Springs and patrolled the Fort Irwin area.

National Training center sign.

In the 1880s the area experienced an economic boom with the discovery of borax at Death Valley. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the area began to grow tremendously as mining operations of all types flourished. Soon railroads, workers, and businesses led to the establishment of the nearby town of Barstow.

The years following the Indian Wars were quiet militarily. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range, a military reservation of approximately 1,000 square miles (3,000 km2) in the area of the present Fort Irwin. In 1942, the Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range was renamed Camp Irwin, in honor of Major General George LeRoy Irwin, commander of the 57th Field Artillery Brigade during World War I, and it was subsumed into the Desert Training Center as one of its cantonment areas and some of its ranges. Two years later, Camp Irwin was deactivated and placed on surplus status.

Camp Irwin reopened its gates in 1951 as the Armored Combat Training Area and served as a training center for combat units during the Korean War. Regimental tank companies of the U.S. 43d Infantry Division from Camp Pickett, Virginia were the first to train at the new facility.

The post was designated a permanent installation on 1 August 1961 and renamed Fort Irwin. During the Vietnam buildup, many units, primarily artillery and engineer, trained and deployed from Fort Irwin.

In January 1971, the post was deactivated again and placed in maintenance status under the control of Fort MacArthur (Los Angeles), California. The California National Guard assumed full responsibility for the post in 1972. From 1972 to late 1980, Fort Irwin was used primarily as a training area by the National Guard and reserve components.

National Training Center

Soldiers move forward to search a building during training at the National Training Center. Long known for large-scale tank vs. tank battles, NTC now provides extensive training in urban operations as of 1 September 2005.

On 9 August 1979, the Department of the Army announced that Fort Irwin had been selected as the site for the National Training Center. With over 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) for maneuver and ranges, an uncluttered electromagnetic spectrum, airspace restricted to military use, and its isolation from densely populated areas, Fort Irwin was an ideal site for this facility. The National Training Center was officially activated 16 October 1980, and Fort Irwin returned to active status on 1 July 1981.

Troops from the 3rd Infantry patrol the California desert during a training mission.

Rock formation painted by units visiting Ft. Irwin

Since its activation, the National Training Center has witnessed many firsts. The first unit to train against the Opposing Force at the NTC were from 3rd Brigade, U.S. 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood Texas. in spring 1981. Also Ft Irwin and the 1st CAV tested and implemented the M.I.L.E.S., Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System. Infantry and armor units first augmented the Opposing Force in 1984 as a detachment of the 7th infantry Division, Fort Ord CA. June 1985 saw the first use of M1 Abrams tanks and later in the fall of 1985 saw the M2 Bradley fighting vehicles on the National Training Center battlefield. The first armored cavalry squadron rotation occurred in November 1984. Units from the 101st Airborne Division participated in the first light force rotation in March 1985. The 197th Infantry Brigade participated in the first extended rotation with brigade operations in June 1985. The first combined Light/Mechanized Infantry rotation took place in February 1990; the 7th Infantry Division (Light) from Fort Ord and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) from Fort Stewart, Georgia participated. The first MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) mission was conducted at the National Training Center Pioneer Training Facility in December 1993.


During the re-opening of the National Training Center in 1980, the OPFOR or opposing force consisted of a detachment of infantry from the 7th Infantry Division US Army based in Fort Ord, California, and a detachment of the 72nd Armor. Once the US Army turned to regimental units in 1985, the OPFOR was designated the 177th Armored Brigade (SEP). The OPFOR soldiers wore Soviet-style armor uniforms including black berets and Soviet-style insignias, and used modified M551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance as BMP-1 vehicles and T-72 tanks. Units from the USMC and US Army Reserve and National Guard would support infantry roles for the OPFOR. Air support and air combat tactics came from fighter units from the Nellis AFB, Mirimar USMC airbase. The National Training center at that period also showcased US Army large-scale tactics to foreign military leaders from all over the world. The OPFOR ran 15 training rotations a year against armored brigades from all over the USA. The command centers of the large-scale battles were computerized in a central command post, where each battle was recorded and analyzed. The National Training Center and Fort Irwin continue to serve as the Army's premier training center.[citation needed] Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the National Training Center has transformed to focus on continuous counterinsurgency operations that reflect the ongoing and rapidly changing battlefield.

Also, the Canadian Forces use the training facilities in order to prepare for its role in Afghanistan,[5] as part of their pre-deployment training

It is a common tradition for any military unit visiting the installation to paint a design on one of the large rock formations near the main gate. (See image above) Units of all types and locations are represented.

Center of Medina Wasl, a mock village in National Training Center

Panorama of Medina Wasl

One of the unique[citation needed] aspects of the base is the presence of several mock "villages" which are used to train troops in urban warfare prior to their deployment. The villages are supposed to mimic real villages from Iraq and Afghanistan and have variety of buildings like mosques, hotels, traffic circles, etc. filled with Arabic-speaking actors playing villagers, street vendors, and insurgents. The biggest two are known as Medina Wasl[6][7] and Medina Jabal,[8][9] and are located several miles from Fort Irwin. Most of the buildings are created using intermodal containers like lego, but some can be much more elaborate and are actually built using Iraqi building standards.[10]

Fort Irwin Solar Project

Fort Irwin Solar Project will be the largest renewable energy project in the Department of Defense's history. The initial development plan is expected to result in more than 500 MW of renewable energy with one billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar power generated per year by 2022. The $2-billion Fort Irwin Solar Project will create jobs both during construction and long-term plant operations, as well as generate additional revenue for local businesses.[11]


Fort Irwin has a total area of 2,579.77 km² (996.055 sq mi), with only 0.3277 km² of this area as water, according to the United States Census Bureau, however the CDP covers an area of 7.1 square miles (18.3 km²), all of it land.

Within its territory on its western side lies the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. The ZIP Code is 92310 and the reservation is inside area code 760.


The 2010 United States Census[12] reported that Fort Irwin had a population of 8,845. The population density was 1,254.1 people per square mile (484.2/km²). The racial makeup of Fort Irwin was 5,481 (62.0%) White, 1,086 (12.3%) African American, 103 (1.2%) Native American, 402 (4.5%) Asian, 120 (1.4%) Pacific Islander, 916 (10.4%) from other races, and 737 (8.3%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2,261 persons (25.6%).

The Census reported that 7,507 people (84.9% of the population) lived in households, 1,338 (15.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 2,371 households, out of which 1,532 (64.6%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,903 (80.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 133 (5.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 54 (2.3%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 13 (0.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 15 (0.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 244 households (10.3%) were made up of individuals and 3 (0.1%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.17. There were 2,090 families (88.1% of all households); the average family size was 3.41.

The population was spread out with 2,992 people (33.8%) under the age of 18, 1,888 people (21.3%) aged 18 to 24, 3,727 people (42.1%) aged 25 to 44, 224 people (2.5%) aged 45 to 64, and 14 people (0.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23.9 years. For every 100 females there were 132.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 147.9 males.

There were 2,487 housing units at an average density of 352.6 per square mile (136.1/km²), of which 18 (0.8%) were owner-occupied, and 2,353 (99.2%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 0%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.3%. 71 people (0.8% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 7,436 people (84.1%) lived in rental housing units.

See also


  1. "Col. Pinkerton assumes command of Fort Irwin Army Garrison," June 1, 2011
  2. "Fort Irwin to Receive New Commander:Abrams to leave post Feb. 7," January 28, 2001
  3. U.S. Census
  4. 4.0 4.1 U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Fort Irwin National Training Center
  5. Pecoskie, Teri (13 March 2010). "From Death Valley to Kandahar". The Star. 
  6. Jones, Bryan (23 November 2009). "Medina Wasl with the 3rd Special Forces Group". Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  7. Bohler, Peter (25 March 2009). "Picture Show: Iraq in the Mojave". Good. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  8. Beckett, Claire. "Critical Mass Top 50, 2010". Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  9. Moss, Jesse (2008). "Full Battle Rattle". Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  10. USACE90017 (25 March 2008). "Fort Irwin Iraqi Village". Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  11. US Army Corps. "Fort Irwin". 
  12. "2010 Census P.L. 94-171 Summary File Data". United States Census Bureau. 

External links

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