Chinese national detained after breaking onto Marine base in California

by Vern Evans

A Chinese national broke onto a Marine Corps base in California on March 27 before getting nabbed by military law enforcement, according to military and border patrol officials.

At approximately 12:45 p.m. the man attempted to access Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms — the Corps’ vast combat training installation located in the remote California desert — without valid identification, Marine spokesman Maj. Joshua Pena said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times on Thursday.

“Despite being prompted to exit at the Condor gate by installation security, the individual proceeded onto the installation without authorization,” Pena said in the statement. “Military law enforcement were immediately notified and detained the individual.”

Pena referred further questions on the incident to Customs and Border Protection, which did not respond by time of publication to a Marine Corps Times request for comment.

Gregory Bovino, a chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol, wrote Friday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the man who had been detained was a Chinese national. The man was in the country illegally, according to Bovino.

“His purpose & intent behind his actions are still being investigated,” Bovino wrote.

The installation at Twentynine Palms, California, spans more than 998 square miles, making it the Marine Corps’ largest base. Its live-fire ranges and other training areas often are home to big exercises.

In September 2023, a driver gained unauthorized access to the same California installation, prompting military police to fire shots at the driver’s vehicle. Military police ultimately detained the driver, who had no reported injuries.

Chinese nationals have gained access to military bases and other sensitive facilities in the United States around 100 times in recent years, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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