BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – Some South Carolina lawmakers are working to make sure Parris Island continues to be the home for the Marine Corps Training Center for a long time.
Its called the Parris Island Protection Act.
Congressmen Joe Wilson, Ralph Norman, and Joe Cunningham all signed the bill aimed to stop any shutdown of the Lowcountry Marine Corps base.
The last line: “No federal funds may be used to close or realign Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.”
“You have male barracks and then down the road, you have female barracks. Nothing the way we are organized right now lends itself to integrated recruit training,” said U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger.
That comment in a Military.com interview by the head of the Marine Corps has led to worry around the Lowcountry and the state.
“We have to get to a place on both coasts or at a third location or whatever we end up with, that every recruit male and female…that there are male and female around,” said Berger.
He is talking about mandates in the National Defense Authorization Act which call for both training bases, in San Diego and Parris Island, to be gender-integrated in the next five years.
Neither base has the infrastructure to do that currently. Parris Island has been training female recruits at the base, but they remain segregated by gender, which is why the idea has been floated of creating a third base and closing the current two.
Parris Island has been around since the 1890s and produces 6,000 jobs and $740 million in economic impacts yearly for the state.
“South Carolina has welcomed recruits from around the country for over a century, and to close Parris Island would not only be detrimental to South Carolina, but also to the Marine Corps,” said Wilson. “As a military veteran of 32 years and the former representative for Parris Island, I am especially grateful to the men and women who serve in the Marine Corps, and I look forward to working with the Marines and my colleagues in Congress to ensure that Parris Island is not closed.”
“For over 100 years, tens of thousands of Marines have begun their outstanding service to our nation in our backyard and I will not let that change on my watch,” said Cunningham. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues across the aisle and protect Parris Island by prohibiting federal funds from being used to close or realign the base.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham has said he intends to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
Leaders have said that no decision to close either base has been made. But they have acknowledged they’re looking at all options to meet the congressional mandate.
Marine Corps officials have not responded to this latest proposed legislation.