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Marines may close famed Parris Island, San Diego boot camps – here’s why

Recruits of Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion watch a rappel demonstration Oct. 4, 2017, on Parris Island, S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)
September 28, 2020

The U.S. Marine Corps is considering closing down its boot camps in Parris Island, S.C. and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., and opening a new boot camp location with gender-integrated training.

The Marines are reportedly considering the closures to comply with a 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requirement for gender-integrated training at the platoon level. In an interview with Defense One, Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger said neither boot camp location is capable of hosting gender-integrated training at the platoon level and alluded to the possibility that a new location may be an option to gender-integrate the force going forward.

“Nothing the way we’re organized right now lends itself to integrated recruit training,” Berger said. “If that’s our start point, and it is, we have to get to a place where on both coasts or at a third location or whatever we end up with, that every recruit, male, female, there’s male and female around.”

Berger said the Marines will have to make some changes to its training facilities to accommodate the gender-integration requirements. Historically, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego has trained only male recruits west of the Mississippi River, while Parris Island has trained male recruits east of the Mississippi and all female recruits nationwide.

Berger said even at Parris Island, where both male and female recruits are trained, their facilities are separate. “It’s definitely not as simple as you build a couple and we’ll be there,” he said in terms of integration.

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Maj. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman for Berger, told Military.com, “The question becomes, ‘Are we better off just using [military construction] dollars to create a new third site, or put that money into our existing sites? No decisions have been made. We’re not investing any money anywhere else. It’s just an option we’re talking about.”

“If you have to update a lot anyway, do you save manpower, resources and personnel by just combining the two into one?” Flanagan added.

A Marine Corps spokesperson told Marine Corps Times that the service is still weighing options with regard to integrating its training.

“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,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a spokesman for Headquarters Marine Corp said in an email to Marine Corps Times.

The idea to close the two training locations has already seen pushback from lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who said “It ain’t going to happen.”

“If you’re looking to save money — let’s start with cutting those people who think closing Parris Island is a good idea,” Graham told Military.com. “Anyone in the Navy or Marine Corps thinking about closing Parris Island has limited growth potential.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) also expressed opposition to the idea of closing the boot camp locations.

“The heart of the United States Marine Corps beats on Parris Island, and Beaufort County has proudly welcomed recruits from all over the country for generations,” Scott told Military.com. “I am confident that as they review plans for consolidated training, the Marine Corps will determine that Parris Island makes the most sense both financially and logistically to train Marines for decades to come. Parris Island will not close.”

Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) also said he would “fight like hell” to keep Parris Island open.

Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also expressed opposition to a potential closure at Parris Island.

“Simply put, there is nothing Governor McMaster won’t do to protect Parris Island and its status as one of the best military training installations in the world,” Brian Symmes, McMaster’s spokesman, told Military.com

This story was updated to correctly identify the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego location under consideration for closure.