View Full Version : MCRD PISC on Endangered List?

10-20-04, 10:45 AM
Base merger idea floated

Staff Writer

The next round of base closings could set off a military culture war in South Carolina, pitting the hooah of the Army against the hoorah of the Marine Corps.

That’s because one base-closing idea being floated in Washington calls for the historic Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island to move to the Army’s largest training base, at Columbia’s Fort Jackson.

“The idea was offered by a senior (Defense Department) official as an example of what could be done,” said Loren Thompson, who follows military issues for the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank.

The idea is not popular with S.C. officials and military boosters. It also could cost the Lowcountry economy more than $250 million in lost jobs and contracts.

However, moving the Marine facility from Parris Island — where recruits cheer “hoorah” — to Fort Jackson — where orders are acknowledged by “hooah” — might work, some say. Both train recruits, and they are in the same state, about 150 miles apart, the Defense official told Thompson.

The idea also falls in line with the military’s focus, under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on “jointness.”

“Jointness is sort of a mantra, requiring the different branches of the military to operate as a single team,” Thompson said.


Another round of military base closings — called BRAC — is scheduled in 2005. The goal is to allow the Defense Department to cut costs while making the military more efficient and effective.

Plans call for closing a quarter of the nation’s 425 bases, saving $7 billion a year.

However, moving the Marines to Columbia hinges on whether there is enough room at Fort Jackson to provide a “discrete” facility for the Marines at a reasonable cost, Thompson said.

Any move would have to be recommended by the federal base-closing commission, which will not submit its proposals until next year.

The Marines occupy about 8,000 acres — half of which is salt marsh — on Parris Island in Beaufort County. Fort Jackson covers 52,000 rolling acres of pines and oaks in eastern Richland County.

Any move also would have to save the Pentagon money, Thompson said. Money could be saved by using the same food service, base hospital, police and fire services for both branches.

But the military would have to spend millions on barracks for recruits, office buildings, housing for enlisted personnel and officers, and training facilities for Marines at Fort Jackson.

“They don’t want to book a lot of unplanned costs,” Thompson said. “BRAC is a process for saving money to pay for future military equipment, weapons and troops.”

The idea of moving the Marine base to Fort Jackson caught S.C. officials by surprise.

“I have not heard of anything along those lines,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the 49-year-old Republican from Seneca who once said he would be drafted into the National Basketball Association before the Pentagon closed Parris Island. “I’ve seen no report or study that shows moving Parris Island enhances Marine training.”

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jim Gardner, chairman of Gov. Mark Sanford’s BRAC advisory committee, chuckled. “You hear rumors like that all of the time, but I haven’t heard that one. I just don’t see that happening.”

“I’d say that’s a bit off the wall,” said retired Marine Gen. George Crist, who has helped champion Beaufort’s efforts to spare Parris Island and the separate Marine Corps Air Station from BRAC’s ax.

Neither the Defense Department nor Army would confirm a Parris Island-Fort Jackson merger is being considered.

“The bottom line is that we’re looking at everything, but I can’t get into specifics,” said Glenn Flood, a Defense Department spokesman. “All options are out there.”


Parris Island graduates about 19,000 recruits from boot camp each year. It trains all female Marine recruits and all male recruits from states east of the Mississippi River.

Fort Jackson’s recruits enter support jobs in the Army, including cooks, mechanics and computer technicians. They come from across the country and its territories.

Parris Island and Fort Jackson have been training bases since World War I. Both have played crucial roles in shaping the history, culture and mystique of their respective services and South Carolina.

“Unfortunately, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn’t include nostalgia and tradition as reasons for not closing a base,” said John Payne, a retired Marine colonel and chairman of Beaufort’s Military Enhancement Committee.

At 13 weeks, Marine boot camp is the longest and considered the most rigorous in the armed services.

Sometimes Marine drill instructors use Parris Island’s remote location — a palmetto-lined causeway is the base’s only link to the mainland — to prod recruits to stick it out.

“Quitting is not an option,” Gunnery Sgt. Juan Miles will tell a recruit who is questioning his decision to join the Corps. “The quickest way off this island is to graduate from boot camp.”

Despite the difficult training, heat, humidity and aggravation from mosquitoes, many Marines eventually develop a special fondness for Parris Island.

“I’ll bet you won’t find a single Marine or drill instructor who says it’s a good idea” to close Parris Island, said Columbia resident John Hopkins, who enlisted in the Marines in 1953 and retired 24 years later as a major.

“If they try to close Parris Island, I’ll put on my old uniform, grab my sword and stand at the bridge to fight the infidels myself.”

Hopkins also finds it hard to accept that Marines might train at the same base with the Army. “It’s like mixing oil and water, and it always will be that way.”

Nonetheless, there is a Marine unit based at Fort Jackson, a Reserve tank company.


Losing the recruit depot would be a heavy blow to the Beaufort economy.

A Beaufort Chamber of Commerce study found the base pumps about $252 million a year into the Lowcountry economy and accounts for 640 civilian jobs.

Fort Jackson, by comparison, employs 3,900 civilians. Its payroll alone tops $500 million a year. A state-sponsored study said the base’s economic impact in the Midlands totals $2.3 billion a year.

However, the sting to Beaufort from the loss of Parris Island could be minimized if the federal government agreed to turn over the scenic, 8,000-acre island for redevelopment. Coastal land suitable for development is scarce.

But there is no guarantee the government would sell the land like it did when Myrtle Beach Air Force Base closed in 1991.

“It’s more likely that the government will mothball the bases and not turn them over for development because of the environmental cleanup costs,” said Libby Barnes, Beaufort chamber president. “A mothballed base produces no revenue for anybody, anywhere.”

Payne, who is leading his community’s effort to keep the Beaufort bases open, added that if the military closed Parris Island, it would be wasting money spent on new buildings there.

The depot soon will open a $7.41 million all-weather training facility. It also recently added a $3 million training facility.

Payne also does not believe there is enough room or facilities at Fort Jackson to accommodate a Marine training base.

“At Fort Jackson, the Army — because of budget constraints — has postponed a lot of infrastructure maintenance and needs,” Payne said. “We’re in pretty good shape here. There doesn’t seem to be a whole bunch of savings by combining the two.”

Fort Jackson expects to train 9,000 more recruits next year as the Army grows to fight the war on terrorism, a move that will put more of a premium of Fort Jackson’s space.

Instead of bringing the Marines to Fort Jackson, Graham said a better idea would be to open the Columbia base’s advanced training schools to all branches of the military.

Fort Jackson is home to the Soldier Support Institute, which includes the adjutant general school that trains Army lawyers, plus schools for postal and finance clerks. The base also is host to the Army Chaplain School.

The military already uses a single school to train members of all the armed services in some support jobs, Graham said.

“Why not consolidate these schools?” he asked. “That would free up dollars for everyone.”

Reach Crumbo at (803) 771-8503 or ccrumbo@thestate.com.


© 2004 The State and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

10-20-04, 11:43 AM
I think that you would find hundreds of thousands of former Marines causing a huge stink if this were to ever start to happen. I didn't even go to Parris Island but would fight anyone over it's demise.

10-20-04, 11:45 AM
here again we see what the dumb ass rumsfield is thinking.. This man has no idea what the hell he is doing half the time and when he speaks to the media he rarely makes any sense what so ever..Bush needs to fire this bum and find someone else..

10-20-04, 11:48 AM
There is no way (as the Brit's would say) in bloody hell they will ever close MCRD PI! I'd be personally offended and very ****ed off at the same time. That's where I went to boot camp, honestly I don't ever see it happening. To many Marines wouldn't let that happen!

Hey Donald why not just scrap the whole USMC while you are at it! I hate some armchair QB's at the DOD. Marines without Parris Island? Good God the end of the world is coming soon!

10-20-04, 12:09 PM
we need to start calling our senators and flooding the white house on this deal. this is all bull****, do away with some of them damn army bases and leave the Marine corps alone..

10-20-04, 12:24 PM
The two facilities are about 250 miles apart kind of seems like our training doesn't it. This is the biggest load of $%%#%$^&& that I've ever heard of. There is more to Paris Island that any non-MARINE could possibly know. Like tradition, history, pride.

10-20-04, 01:11 PM
but do you think rumsfield really gives a **** i think not...

10-20-04, 02:01 PM
This defense downsizing just dosent make any sense when we just embarked on a multi front war against terrorism that will not be over in the foreseeable future. I did'nt actually believe that they would close MCAS El Toro and LTA Santa Ana either but guess what they did. I think that Rummies "jointness " initiative is more in reference to what he has been smoking.

10-20-04, 02:17 PM
I was there in the Chief of Staff's office at MCAS El Toro. The whole time in 84-85 the local business community and developers were putting the squeeze on us. They encouraged residents to complain about the jet noise.

Back to 2004. What was all that talk of recalling our Forces in Germany and the rest of Europe? Where are they going to billet them if they close Stateside bases?

10-20-04, 04:43 PM
Originally posted by jinelson
This defense downsizing just dosent make any sense when we just embarked on a multi front war against terrorism that will not be over in the foreseeable future. I did'nt actually believe that they would close MCAS El Toro and LTA Santa Ana either but guess what they did. I think that Rummies "jointness " initiative is more in reference to what he has been smoking.

LMAO! Rumsfeld is the biggest turd in Washington!

10-20-04, 04:49 PM
In all fairness, I don't think Rumsfeld has anything to do with this and he probably would think it's the lamest proposal to come out of these pencil pushing staffers in the DoD.

And while the MILITARY has more bases than we need, the MARINE CORPS does not and probably won't face any base closures any more. Take my word on this one. I was involved heavily in BRAC because of the environmental cleanup each base must go through as a part of the transition.

Read an article from ANOTHER reporter who words things differently and gives a different perspective on things.

__________________________________________________ _

Marine boot camp at Parris Island could someday move to Fort Jackson

Of The Post and Courier Staff

A high-level Defense Department official has floated the idea of moving the Marine Corps' boot camp at Parris Island to the Army's Fort Jackson in Columbia, according to a defense analyst at a Virginia-based think tank.

While he knows of no one seriously pushing to combine the two basic training sites at one base, analyst Loren B. Thompson said the Pentagon's approach suggests anything could happen during the next round of base closures and realignments.

"It's hypothetical and it's probably a bad idea," Thompson said, "but it was offered up because it's so different from what we saw in the 1990s."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon officials have said the military services have 25 percent more bases and facilities than they need. That suggests the 2005 round of closures and realignments could be severe.

Combining the two sites would allow for "joint use" of a base. Forcing members of the nation's military services to work alongside each other is one of the goals of the Base Realignment and Closure process.

"Back in the 1990s, they (Pentagon staffers) went to the individual services and asked them which bases they didn't need," said Thompson, who studies defense issues for the Lexington Institute. "Now they're saying 'Get together with your ideas.' They'll have teams that will look at all sorts of ideas. I guarantee they'll at least look at this. The Carolinas are going to lose some bases, but I don't want to guess what they would be."

Still, the idea that the Marines could be forced to move recruit training from Parris Island to Fort Jackson came as a surprise to some of South Carolina's military experts.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. James Gardner of Hanahan, a member of Gov. Mark Sanford's military advisory panel, said he felt Parris Island is one of the most secure installations in the state.

"I hope we can keep all of our bases," Gardner said, noting the state's leaders are concerned about such bases as McEntire Air National Guard Station and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, each of which has F-16 fighter jets; the bases are barely 15 miles apart.

In Beaufort, retired Army Brig. Gen. Jim Shufelt also is a member of Sanford's team of experts.

"I would be surprised if, in fact, that (Parris Island and Fort Jackson merger) occurred," Shufelt said. "It sounds neat on paper, that they're both doing the same thing, but they're really not. In both the Army and the Marines, they're establishing a cluster of skills along with the culture of (each) service. I don't sense anything like this on the table."

Other observers agreed that while little has been said about the idea, it's consistent with the approach found in the Defense Department. "It makes sense that they might look at it," Washington-based defense consultant Gary Hall said, "but that doesn't mean they'd actually do it."

Hall works for Potomac Advocates, a firm that's helping the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce inform leaders in Washington about the area's military. George Lauffer, a former defense aide to Sen. Strom Thurmond, also works alongside Potomac Advocates.

"I don't think Fort Jackson could handle the load," Lauffer said, "even if separate training facilities were established (at the fort) for the Army and the Marines. The Marines train differently from the Army. If the Army wants infantrymen, they send them to Fort Benning (Ga.) for their training. But the Marines say all are infantrymen."

At 52,000 acres, Fort Jackson is much larger than Parris Island, which has 8,000 acres. It graduates more than 40,000 Army recruits each year while Parris Island handles about half that many Marine recruits.

The culture of the two services also struck a chord with Charles Nemfakos of Virginia, a retired senior executive with the Navy who was instrumental in the decision to close Charleston's naval facilities.

"The Marines have a considerable amount invested in Parris Island, including The Crucible," a 3-day endurance test that each recruit must finish before graduation.

"Could it be replicated at other bases? Sure, but base closures work best when you eliminate jobs and save money. It's all speculation at this point. They're looking at as many options as they can."

Terry Joyce covers the military. Contact him at tjoyce@postandcourier.com or 745-5857.

10-20-04, 05:58 PM
This is what you get when you hire a civilian who's never been anything BUT a civilian to administer the military... Certainly the job should remain a civilian post, in order to preserve separation of powers, but placing someone in the position without ANY military experience seems to me to be just outright stupid.

10-21-04, 03:41 PM
Well, an exasperated Gen. Pershing asked out loud why his army guys couldn't fight as well as Marines. "They're the same people."
Maybe the army will find out if they move MCRD to Ft. Jackson.
However, it sounds like a crock of horsesh*t from here.
Congress won't be able to take the heat that will come from this.

Ed Fleming
10-21-04, 03:55 PM
Not my Parris Island !!! AIN'T NO MARINE GOING TO HOOHA !!!
What would those dog faces think when they saw a USMC Drill Instructor doing his job ???

10-21-04, 06:24 PM
>IF< they were really serious about cutting costs, the FIRST place I would look is that of the command, currently there are FOUR TIMES and many Generals as there was at the height of WW2, with a force of apx. 12.5 million personnel under their command for those 5 years of WW2. the 3 biggest offenders are the A.F., Army and Navy, wow, thats a surprise, yea right, All those private aircraft, and perks, not to mention expense accounts, and U.S. Govt. Platinum Credit Cards, seems to me if they (command) really cared about the troops like they seem to mouth quite often they would offer up those stars as a sacrifice for the troops and good of the service in order to keep what is important, plus, let's pretend the Corps has not paid for P.I. in blood and sweat.. I say find the money some other place..