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The marine corps base in Hawaii is a key strategic location for the US military in the Pacific. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The main marine base in Hawaii is Marine Corps Base Hawaii located in the town of Kaneohe on the island of Oahu.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the marine base in Hawaii. We’ll start by identifying the different marine corps installations in Hawaii, their locations, commands, and purpose.

We’ll then dive deeper into Marine Corps Base Hawaii, looking at its history, facilities, capabilities, and role.

Marine Installations in Hawaii

Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) is located on the island of Oahu, encompassing several installations including Camp H.M. Smith, Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Camp Kawilea, and Camp Tarawa.

MCBH is home to over 23,000 marines, sailors, their family members, and civilian employees.

Camp H.M. Smith serves as the headquarters for the United States Marine Corps forces in the Pacific area. It houses the headquarters staff, subordinate commands, and support activities. The camp was dedicated in 1978 and is named after Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, a distinguished Marine Corps general officer famous for his exploits in World War II and Korea.

Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, located on the windward side of Oahu, is home to air, ground logistics and command elements of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Operational aircraft based here include KC-130 cargo/refueling planes and CH-53 helicopters.

The picturesque setting, between the Ko’olau Mountain Range and Kaneohe Bay, makes the base one of the most beautiful in the Marine Corps.

Camp Kawilea in Waianae and Camp Tarawa in Waimea are both considered satellite camps of MCBH Kaneohe Bay. They serve as training areas for a variety of field exercises and amphibious operations.

Marine Corps Training Area Bellows

The Marine Corps Training Area Bellows (MCTAB) is situated below the dramatic cliffs along Bellows Beach on the southeastern shore of Oahu. Comprising over 1,000 acres, its mission is to support combined arms live-fire training and maneuver exercises for Marine Corps ground combat units.

MCTAB contains state-of-the-art ranges, simulated urban settings, and drop zones to provide realistic battleground environments. Marine units from Hawaii and across the Pacific utilize MCTAB to conduct advanced infantry training before deploying overseas.

The training area is also used by other branches of the U.S. military as well as allied foreign forces.

Safety regulations and environmental initiatives ensure MCTAB strikes a balance between vital training operations and stewardship of the land. Endangered native plant habitats are protected and ancient Hawaiian cultural sites are preserved within its boundaries.

Overview of Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Location and Geography

Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) is located on the island of O’ahu, nestled between the Ko’olau Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean. It encompasses several installations across approximately 4,500 acres of land, including Camp H.M. Smith, Camp Catlin, Pu’uloa Range Training Facility, Manana Family Housing Area, and the Pearl Harbor section of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

History and Development

MCBH traces its roots back to 1918 with the establishment of Luke Field Naval Air Station. Over the decades, the base expanded through several mergers and acquisitions of neighboring Army and Navy installations.

Major milestones include: the formation of Marine Corps Air Station Ewa in 1952, incorporation into Marine Corps Base Hawaii in the 1990s, and the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act which consolidated many Oahu military facilities.

Mission and Capabilities

As the headquarters for Marine Corps forces in the Pacific, MCBH’s mission is to provide facilities, services and material support to III Marine Expeditionary Force units and other assigned Marine forces. Key capabilities at MCBH include:

  • Amphibious assault training
  • Jungle warfare instruction
  • Parachute drops and air delivery
  • A wide range of live-fire ranges for infantry, armor, and aviation training

These cutting-edge training areas allow Marines to hone essential combat skills.

Base Facilities and Assets

MCBH hosts an array of facilities that support Marine operations, personnel quality of life, and community relations, such as:

  • Hangars, airfield runways and control towers
  • Maintenance bays, storage bunkers, motor pools
  • Mess halls, exchange stores, recreational centers
  • Clinics, child development centers, schools
  • Gyms, playing fields, golf course
  • Theatre, chapels, community outreach centers

In total, MCBH manages over 2,700 buildings and structures crucial to projection of U.S. power across the Pacific.

Marine Corps Hawaii in Action

Training Exercises

The Marine Corps bases in Hawaii regularly conduct intense field training exercises to keep Marines prepared for diverse real-world missions. According to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii website, their prime location enables training in jungle, mountain, and amphibious environments.

Some notable training centers are the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, and Puʻuloa Rifle Range.

For example, at the Jungle Warfare Training Center Marines practice survival skills and simulated combat patrols on the thickly forested slopes of the Waianae Mountains. This uniquely prepares them for expeditionary jungle missions across the Pacific.

In 2022, around 9,500 Marines trained there according to JWTC commander Col. Christopher Myrick.

Pacific Deployments

Marine units stationed in Hawaii frequently deploy on maritime security missions and to support military allies across the vast Pacific Ocean. Deployments involve operating from Navy ships or remote islands to conduct training, exercises, and provide regional defense support if needed.

According to a 2021 DOD report, there are typically over 2,000 Marines deployed in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area from Hawaii units at any given time. For example, the 3rd Marine Regiment conducted exercises in Australia in 2022.

Additionally, Marine MV-22 Ospreys from Hawaii deployed to support crisis response training with Japanese allies in 2023.

Hosting Pacific Partnerships

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and MCB Hawaii often host military counterparts from allied Pacific nations for collaborative training events and exchanges to strengthen relationships. The bases have security cooperation plans with over 30 Indo-Pacific allies and partners.

For instance, the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Central Readiness Regiment participates in training at the Jungle Warfare Training Center every year. Also, the base hosted the industrial defense training event KAMANDAG 7 in 2022 with over 1,900 personnel from 8 Asia-Pacific countries in attendance.

The Strategic Importance of Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), located on the island of Oahu, is a key strategic military installation that enables the Marine Corps to maintain a forward-deployed presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Here are some reasons why MCBH is so vital:

Power Projection

MCBH allows the Marine Corps to quickly deploy forces across the vast Asia-Pacific region. With top-notch port facilities, airfields, and prepositioned equipment, troops stationed at MCBH can rapidly respond to contingencies and project American power abroad at a moment’s notice.


The presence of Marines in Hawaii deters potential adversaries from taking destabilizing actions in the region. Knowing that US forces are close at hand and ready to respond discourages provocative behavior.


MCBH enables the US Marines to train and operate with Indo-Pacific allies and partners. Working together enhances interoperability between the US and friendly militaries, strengthening regional security architectures.


At the crossroads of the Pacific, Hawaii provides the perfect central location for the Marines to cover the vast Asia-Pacific. MCBH’s position allows rapid access to potential hotspots like the South and East China Seas.

In sum, Marine Corps Base Hawaii is indispensible for safeguarding American interests in this strategically vital part of the world. Its superb facilities and forward location enable the Marine Corps to protect allies, deter threats, and respond quickly to any regional crisis that may emerge.


In conclusion, Marine Corps Base Hawaii on the island of Oahu is the epicenter of marine corps activity in the Pacific. Its location, capabilities, and installations make it a strategically invaluable asset for power projection across the region.

As the marine corps continues its shift to focus on the Indo-Pacific, we can expect Marine Corps Base Hawaii to only grow in importance over the coming years.

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