National Training Center

Painted rocks at the entrance to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

Desolate and beautiful.

As I drove from the Ontario, Calif., airport toward Fort Irwin, those two words came to mind. I have never seen mountains like I did during that more than 100-mile drive. Of course, I’m a Southeast Texas girl, who was raised at about 8 feet above see level. I am now thousands of miles up and it’s mysterious and amazing to me. I continually had to remind myself to watch the road.

Once you get on the road leading toward the post’s gate, the land becomes flatter, browner and dotted with white crosses of those who have lost their life on that road. I can see how. You want to just drive as fast as you can to get past the nothingness along the road.

Then suddenly, rocks begin to appear with Army units painted on them. Then more, piled together. Then there are a couple like the one I took a picture of that are piled high into the air. If you look in the center, you’ll see the 1st Cavalry Division’s patch.

Of course, this mysterious beauty I see in the desert might change once I’m living in it. I go into the box, what the training grounds are known as, in about an hour and as I pack, I’m becoming more nervous. I haven’t really camped since I was in junior high and I’m hoping I still have what it takes to sleep in a sleeping bag and forgo showing for days at a time.

Last night I was able to meet with members of the division headquarters and several guys asked why I would willingly go into the box.

Honestly, I look at it as an adventure and a learning experience. Reporters are curious by nature, and sure, I could interview soldiers once they return home to determine what it was like training out here, or I could see it for myself. I think the later makes for a much better story.

But again, I say this from the comfort of my hotel room. I got a hot shower this morning and spent the night in a warm bed.

Next time you hear from me, I’ll be in the box, and I hope to be just as optimistic.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

(1) comment


Wow, memories, I wonder if our rock is still there? HHC, 2-7 Cav 1993-1995. i truly miss those days.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.