Marines love video games. It's no secret that games like Battlefield had an influence on many of us as we decided to sign up in the first place. Slowly, you'll come realize that life in the military is nothing like video games 99% of the time. But that still leaves that sweet, sweet 1% — which is experienced mostly during the Integrated Training Exercise.

When you're at ITX, your battalion is put to the test to see if they can operate in combat environments. This is the thing that makes or breaks your unit. It's what tells the Marine Corps that you're ready to be sent on cool, important missions during deployment.

There's a lot at stake when your unit arrives at Camp Wilson, make no mistake about that. It's also some of the most fun you'll have while training for a deployment. At times, the experience can feel like you're in a video game. The types of things you do at ITX are the very reason you joined the infantry in the first place — to shoot guns and blow stuff up. This is Battlefield live.


1.You go on cool missions

Conducing helicopter-supported raids and clearing through a large town populated with both enemies and civilians sound like objectives out of latest Rainbow Six. Sure, not all of the exercises are this cool, but even video games have their dull levels.

Even some of the company assault ranges were pretty cool.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

2.Camp Wilson is basically the game lobby

When playing a game online, between matches, you often get sent to a "lobby," where you wait with other players and get prepared for the next mission. This is essentially the role of Camp Wilson: it's a place you relax and get ready for the next event.

There's not much to do there, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Natalia Cuevas)

3.You use vehicles to attack objectives

This isn't the case for every mission but, for the most part, you'll be taken to and from a staging area by vehicle to get as close as possible to your objective before you get out and attack. On the large assaults, you'll be riding in Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

You were lucky if you mostly rode in helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

4.You finally get to witness air strikes

Twentynine Palms offers a cool training experience for units undergoing ITX evaluation — you get the ability to use and witness air strikes. That's right: We're talking planes flying overhead and dropping bombs that you get to watch explode. And you thought calling in an airstrike in Call of Duty felt good?

The explosions are better in person.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

5.You have artillery support

In some games, you can call for artillery support. This probably wasn't the case during a lot of your pre-deployment training cycles. You definitely get mortars, but watching a 155mm Howitzer drop warheads in the distance is amazing. Just like air strikes, these are even better in person.

They're like mortars but, bigger.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Justin A. Bopp)

6.You fire a lot of bullets

Video games give you a lot of ammunition and so will your unit at Twentynine Palms. You're going to get everything you need for every mission you take on, and you might get more than you know what to do with. Hopefully your trigger finger is prepared for the cramp it's going to experience.

You'll burn through more ammo than you thought you'd ever touch.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson)