Marines have always been amphibious warriors, usually striking from the sea onto dry land. At the 2010 Marine West Expo aboard Camp Pendleton, CA, a powerful winter storm did just that to the hundreds of vendors displaying the latest in military gear under a large tent. The storm swept ashore Jan. 26, the night before the show opened, and driving rain seeped into the carpeting under the exhibits.

Of course, the Marines and the vendors carried on – what’s a little water to a Leatherneck, after all? Nielsen Expositions called in crews who wielded shop-vacs and pulled up soaked carpeting in the aisles, and the show stepped off as scheduled with a rousing greeting from Major General Richard P. Mills, Commanding General, 1st Marine Division.
General Mills, who is about to deploy to Afghanistan, expressed astonishment at the changes wrought in the past decade or so in Marine Corps equipment. “Ten or 12 years ago, if a World War II veteran had wandered into my COC (Combat Operations Center), it would have looked pretty familiar to him,” the general said, with bulletin boards, maps pinned here and there, desks, filing cabinets, big radio and phone units, and a big antenna “farm” outside.

Today’s COCs are “light-years” ahead of that, with sophisticated electronics, servers, laptops, integrated communications linking air support with ground command and individual Marines. Commanders now have unprecedented awareness of the battlespace, with the ability to direct, control and maneuver troops at a moment’s notice. All of this, he stressed, was thanks to the close working relationship between the Corps and its vendors.
As he is being briefed for his deployment, General Mills noted that he’s often reminded how smart and adaptable the enemy is. “I have to laugh when they say that,” he said. “The enemy can’t hold a candle to what we’re putting out there, from boots to complex communications. If the enemy knew what we know, he’d surrender today—because we’ve got him.”

The Expo is one of three Marine Military Expositions co-sponsored annually by the Marine Corps League and Marine Corps Systems Command. The scarlet-jacketed League members were there in force, talking with this new generation of Marines, familiarizing themselves with the equipment and recruiting active-duty Marines to be members.
The Expos bring Marines together with vendors for frank discussions of what’s working, what’s not and what’s needed. A few choice comments from a Gunny to a vendor’s representative can ripple all the way back to the factory in short-order, resulting in a better piece of gear.
And though General Mills emphasized the high-tech side of materiél, his Marines were also keenly interested in humbler matters, such as better boots, socks and insoles, handy knives, ballistic eyewear and water purifiers.

Since disease has killed more warriors than any weapon, hygiene and health have become increasingly important to the Marines. Two companies – Brief Relief of Escondido, CA, and Cleanwaste of Belgrade, MT – displayed products designed to provide relief for Marines far from a clean head. These included lightweight, disposable and portable toilets, as well as pouches designed for liquid waste. In use by troops across the world, these products help reduce both the chance for disease to erupt in a camp as well as reduce the environmental impact of a military unit.
Held Jan. 27-28, this was the 17th Marine West Expo. Like Marine Expo South scheduled for April 21-22 at Camp Lejeune, Marine West attendees are primarily warfighters just back from Southwest Asia and other trouble spots, as well as personnel preparing to deploy to those regions.
Click here for more photos from Marine West 2010.