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The venerable Parris Island facility where Marines have undergone basic training for more than a century may close, as the branch seeks to integrate male and female recruits and retrofitting the camp appears to be too costly.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said Sept. 24 that the South Carolina basic combat training base may be closed and replaced with a third facility for gender-integrated training.
“Nothing, the way we’re organized right now, lends itself to integrated recruit training,” the Military.com website quoted Berger as saying. “If that’s our start point — and it is — we have to get to a place on both coasts, or at a third location.”
A spokesman for Berger expanded on his comments to the website, saying while nothing had been decided, the Marines had to consider what would be the best way to spend its money.
“If you have to update a lot anyway, do you save manpower, resources and personnel by just combining the two into one?” Marine Maj. Eric Flanagan remarked.
Closing the crucible that has produced leathernecks for all the major wars of the last century would cost 6,130 jobs at Parris Island.
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The Marines face a five-year deadline for gender-integrated training at Parris Island.
Parris Island has been training Marines for 120 years on the island, located off the state’s southern coast. The base has problems aside from the challenge of making the necessary accommodations to train women alongside men, including rising sea levels and old buildings that need improvements.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster brought commanders from every military installation in the state to the capital of Columbia in early October — and he had a leader from Parris Island talk first.
McMaster said the base “adds greatly to the character and strength, economic and otherwise, of this state.”
“Anything we can do to support your mission, we’ll do it,” the governor said.
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Last Friday, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Lexington, the senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the Parris Island Protection Act, which prohibits federal funds from planning or closing Parris Island.
“The recent report that the Marine Corps is considering closing Parris Island is shocking and disappointing,” Wilson said in a statement. “The unique value of the base and its facilities cannot be replicated, which is why I am grateful to introduce this legislation, along with my friend, Congressman Ralph Norman, and several members of the South Carolina delegation.”
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