Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields:
Camp Morena
Camp Morena support operations have sustained Engineer efforts from the Army Guard, Air Guard, Reserve and Active Duty units throughout the country. Camp Morena was built was built as a horse cavalry post in 1940 for mountain and cold weather training. Morena Reservoir lies in the middle of 3,250 acres of chaparral, oak woods, and grassland. In addition to these natural attributes, the newly renovated park features some of the most modern camping facilities in San Diego County. The lake is the highest (3000 feet) and most remote of the city's reservoirs.
Once based near the ocean, Team Engineer works out of Camp Morena in eastern San Diego County. The site has a headquarters complex, barracks, dining facility, vehicle maintenance sheds and helipad. Camp Morena supports the counterdrug operations, as well as all other counterdrug operations in the area. For example, the Camp houses and feeds JTF-6 units undertaking counterdrug ops in this area, and provides facilities for the medevac helicopter that supports the activities. The headquarters staff runs Camp Morena. There is also a platoon that is dedicated solely to road-building operations. And there is a platoon that's dedicated just to fence building.
Located just inside U.S. territory, the 5-to-14-foot-high welded fences are intended to stop or significantly delay both drug-bearing vehicles and individual smugglers attempting to dash northward across the border. The roads, which spread out just behind the fences, improve the U.S. Border Patrol's ability to monitor the border and apprehend suspected smugglers before they can disappear into nearby towns and cities.
The California Guard's engineer effort on the border began in 1989, when the first troops began upgrading the network of roads used by the Border Patrol. The success of that first small-scale engineer operation quickly led to the formation of Task Force Engineer. Among its first missions was to plan and build a primary east-west patrol road along the border. The mission was given to the Guard engineers, while active duty, Guard and Reserve troops began construction of a fence along the border under the management of the Defense Department's Texas-based Joint Task Force 6. JTF-6 managed the fence building operation until October 1996, when it was taken over by the California Guard engineers. As the fence crept slowly eastward from the Pacific Ocean, the Guard engineer troops kept slightly ahead, improving or building roads as they went. Since 1990 Team Engineer has helped construct, maintain or improve some 600 miles of road along the border, in the process moving nearly 1 million linear cubic yards of earth while adhering to all applicable environmental regulations and guidelines.
The active duty California Amy and Air Guard Counterdrug troops assigned to Team Engineer or Camp Morena work on the fence project. It is undoubtedly one of the ugliest fences ever constructed, emerging from the Pacific off of the San Diego coast and coursing along California's border with Mexico toward the Jacumba Mountains. Surplus corrugated steel runway sections, welded to steel rails which are welded to steel pipe that are sunk ten feet into concrete are purely function over appearance. Running its length is a network of support roads, which, like the fence, are still a work in progress. Both the fence and roads are a marvel when one looks at the landscape's drastic change from west to east. The makeup of the terrain becomes more rocky, mountainous and the soil dryer and harder towards the east. From an engineering standpoint, the fence and barriers function extremely well. They were designed and built to create a dry dam to force the drug flow into the ports of entry, areas well in the control of the US Border Patrol and Customs Agents.
The 11th Cavalry Regiment and Camp Morena
In 1939 General George C. Marshall became Army Chief of Staff. With war clouds looming over Europe, Marshall knew it was only a matter of time before the United States was drawn into another conflict overseas. In order to prepare the 60,000-man army, he began a program to get the men out of the barracks and into the field for a year of "toughening up." Tent camps were to be constructed and in turn various regiments of cavalry and infantry would take to the field. By September 1940 General Marshall had convinced Congress to begin the first-ever peacetime draft beginning in September 1940. In November 1940 the field rotation for the 11th Cavalry began.
The new camps for the Regiment were constructed in San Diego and Imperial counties, near the Southern California/Mexican border. Camp Seeley, near El Centro, California and Camp Morena; near Campo were built simultaneously. Camp Seeley was used for desert training, training the horses to swim with rider up (mounted) and was the location of Regiment's rifle and machine gun ranges. Camp Morena was for mountain and cold weather training. The Regiment would rotate Squadrons between the two throughout the year. It was later decided to establish a single camp suitable to house the entire Regiment at one site. Construction of Camp Lockett (named for Colonel James Lockett, 4th Colonel of the Regiment) in Campo, where "E" Troop had been posted in 1918, began in 1941. Built by the Quartermaster Corps, it is generally acknowledged that Camp Lockett was the last designated mounted cavalry camp constructed in the U.S. Army's history. It remained a cavalry post for the 10th and 28th Cavalry Regiments after the 11th gave up its horses. Today the El Centro/Camp Seeley area remains the home of the 11th Cavalry Horse Honor Guard (Historical) - "The Colonel's Own."
Led by Harold M. Rayner, (16th Colonel of the Regiment) the main body moved from the Presidio of Monterey to the Camp Seeley/Camp Morena duty stations. By this time the Regiment had reverted to three troops (companies) per squadron. The Regiment's HQ, First Squadron and Provisional Squadron were based at Camp Seeley, while Second Squadron was posted at Camp Moreno. In March 1941, some 700 draftees from Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan joined the Regiment. They were the first conscripts to have ridden with the Regiment.
The Regiment underwent extensive training until 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On 10 December, the entire Regiment was ordered to occupy the unfinished Camp Lockett. Those units based at Camp Morena made the five-mile trek in short order. The Squadrons based at Camp Seeley commenced what became the last "Forced March" in U.S. Horse Cavalry history, completing the ninety mile march over extremely rocky, mountainous terrain in one and a half days. Once at Camp Lockett, horse-drawn artillery units occupied Camp Seeley while its rifle range continued to be used by cavalry units from Camp Lockett. Camp Morena was closed.
Immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there were wild reports of Japanese attacks on the California coast. Once at Camp Lockett, the regiment was posted along the United States/Mexico border for the fourth time in its history; this time to counter the rumored threat of enemy troops landing in Baja California and marching north. Once the threat was proven to be false, the 11th Cavalry Regiment was relieved by the 10th and the 28th Cavalry (Horse) and stood down to await further orders. They were supposed to ship out for Australia, but many of the troopers came down with jaundice from the yellow fever vaccinations, so they remained in California for the time being
Camp Morena Today
Today, Camp Morena, as well as nearby Camp Michael Mansoor, are sub-installations of Naval Base Coranado.
Search our Site!
Search the Web Search California Military History Online
View My Stats
Visitors since 8 December 1998
Questions and comments concerning this site should be directed to the Webmaster
Updated 3 July 2017