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Marine Corps celebrates 105th anniversary of Recruit Depot, Parris Island

On Oct. 25, 1915, Marine Barracks Port Royal, South Carolina, was founded with the principal mission of training newly enlisted Marines.

Marines had been operating on the island off and on since the mid-18th century in support of the Navy’s activity in the area.

But the founding of the Port Royal barracks, soon renamed Marine Barracks Parris Island, set the small swampy coastal Carolina island on a path to fame as the place where Marines are made.

“Everyone knows that there is this thing about Parris Island,” Ed Nevgloski, director of the Marine Corps history division, told Marine Corps Times Friday.

“It’s the same training that recruits get in (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) San Diego, but it’s this mystique ‘ahh you went to Parris Island,’” Nevgloski added.

To celebrate its 105th anniversary, the Corps started a weeklong project to highlight the history of the depot, through photography and facts about the depot.

“In addition to basic instruction, Parris Island also served as a training site for a number of specialty schools and units, including defense battalions; the 5th Barrage Balloon Squadron, and Marine Glider Group 71,” one of the facts posted by the page said.

From exhausted recruits shocked awake at reveille to trudging in the South Carolina mud, the pictures highlight the continuity of Marine training, emphasizing the pain it takes to become a Marine.

While the modern recruit training structure did not start to take shape until the late 1950s, the core of what it took to become a Marine has been the same for a long time, Nevgloski said.

“They are doing the same thing that we experience today at Parris Island and San Diego, where they’re taking the individual out of society and putting him as part of a group,” Nevgloski added.

This year’s celebration comes as the future of the recruit depot comes into question.

In September, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said he was considering moving recruit training from Parris Island and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, to an unknown third location as the best way to gender-integrate training at the platoon level.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act required the Marine Corps to gender-integrate recruit training at the platoon level at both boot camps, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

Berger said the two depots simply do not have the infrastructure to accommodate that level of integration and suggested that moving recruit training to a third location might be the best solution.

“Nothing the way we’re organized right now lends itself to integrated recruit training,” Berger said at Defense One’s state of the Marine Corps event.

“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 all there’s male and female around,” he added.

Since the announcement local lawmakers have balked at the idea.

“It ain’t gonna happen!” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, tweeted out in response to the idea of moving the base.

“Anyone in the Navy or Marine Corps thinking about closing Parris Island has limited growth potential,” he added.

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