Comments made last week by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger in an interview with Defense One raised questions about the future of MCRD Parris Island. During the interview, Gen. Berger is asked about progress on platoon level gender integration of Marine Corps recruit training. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandates recruit gender integration within 5 years. In his response, he talks about the facility constraints at Parris Island and San Diego that limit progress and briefly raises the prospect of an alternative training location.
When news of his comments broke on Friday, phones lit up across the Beaufort region. A strong reaction is absolutely warranted. Parris Island has a $739.8 million economic impact and supports more than 6,000 jobs, with the vast majority of those jobs concentrated in our backyard. Parris Island is part of the fabric of the Beaufort region and has been for more than a century. Being the community where Marines are made is a big part of our identity.
Friday’s news was a reminder of something leaders in the Beaufort Region have known for years – the military installations we host are not guaranteed and cannot be taken for granted. That’s why public and private sector leaders decades ago formed the Military Enchantment Committee (MEC) to work with elected officials at all levels of government to support our region’s military installations. It is also why the Beaufort region participates in legislative advocacy through the South Carolina Military Base Task Force. This is the time for resolve and action.
Three things everyone in the Beaufort region should know in relation to this development:
- This Threat is Real – we cannot pretend that the risk of losing Parris Island is minimal. We have to take this threat seriously.
- This Threat is Different – we have known for a while that the Marine Corps has concerns about storms and tidal impact on Parris Island. The operational challenge for Parris Island created by the NDAA mandate is a new threat.
- This Threat is Long-Term – answers to the questions raised by the Commandant’s comments cannot be addressed in a few months or even a few years. We must work now to protect and strengthen Parris Island for the decades ahead.
Rest assured our response is already underway. Since news broke Friday, Chamber and MEC leaders have talked with active and retired military leaders, local and federal elected officials, and the State’s Military Base Task Force. Elected officials are rallying to this cause. Senators Graham and Scott and Congressman Cunningham all made strong comments and Governor McMaster has called a meeting in Columbia about Parris Island this Thursday. Leaders from the Beaufort Region, including the Chamber and MEC will be at the Governor’s meeting.
National defense is a vital economic pillar for the Beaufort Region. With the MEC and our elected official partners, the Beaufort Regional Chamber will take every step necessary to help ensure the long term mission success of MCRD Parris Island. We will keep you in the know at every step.