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South Carolina lawmakers look to shore up Parris Island’s future

The training depot has prepared more than one million Marines for battle for more than a century.
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 3:25 PM EST
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As the Marine Corps takes a look at how and where it plans to train future warriors, members of South Carolina’s Congressional delegation are fighting to keep Parris Island off the chopping block. A bill recently put forward by five South Carolina Republicans and one Wisconsin GOP Representative would prevent federal funds from going toward a closure or realignment of the historic recruit depot.

“It’s historic. The kind of training that they do there. They have live fire ranges. They’ve trained over a million Marines,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.).

South Carolina GOP Congresswoman Nancy Mace promised during her campaign that the first bill she would file would be to protect the future of Parris Island. This comes as the Marine Corps explores how to fully integrate male and female training.

Since 1915, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island has trained recruits east of the Mississippi River and enlisted women. Male recruits from the western side underwent boot camp in San Diego.

But under new federal law, men and women will need to train side by side at both facilities

“I do believe that when we look at Parris Island the way they’ve integrated their training, they’ve done a remarkable job,” said Mace. “We all should be very proud of what they’re accomplishing.”

Female Marine recruits recently began basic training at San Diego for the first time, but the Marine Corps says neither Parris Island nor San Diego are “currently able to optimally train recruits in an integrated environment.”

One option is to build a new base, from the ground up.

Mace’s bill would block the closure of Parris Island, which also generates 6,000 jobs and $800 million dollars in economic activity.

”They are a shining star of many military bases across the country,” said Mace, who recently toured the facility and met with leadership.

While the bill is not expected to go anywhere without Democratic support, retired general Stephen Cheney – who previously served as commanding general at Parris Island – says any time a base faces possible closure, there’s resistance.

”The Marine Corps has been incredibly successful in fending off closures,” said Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USMC (ret.).

Cheney - who also spent years at the Southern California training center - says Parris Island benefits from a longer history and sprawling size over San Diego. He’s more concerned about the Lowcountry’s vulnerability to flooding and extreme heat. As the weather during hurricane season intensifies, more training days are restricted from dangerous conditions.

That’s going to become an increasingly greater threat to them,” said Cheney.

The Marine Corps said in a statement it would not be commenting on any specific legislation, but it is exploring all options to accomplish full gender integration training. Parris Island has until 2025, while San Diego has until 2028 to figure this out.

The full statement from the Public Affairs office said, “The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Marine Corps to implement gender integrated training at our recruit depots within very specific time frames. We are exploring all options to accomplish this integration, while also realizing the vision of the 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance related to modernization of our training facilities to ensure our Marines remain capable, relevant and lethal in the future. Due to a variety of limitations, neither Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island nor San Diego are currently able to optimally train recruits in an integrated environment. At this time, any remarks on courses of action are premature as we are simply exploring all options.”

This new requirement came about through the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Supervisor of Videography Timothy Knapp and Producer Karen Daborowski contributed to this report.

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