Our Defenders: The Marine Corps

BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - The United States Marine Corps, they're the few and the proud.

Each year, thousands of young men and women, strive to earn the title, Marine.

For many, it all begins on the sands of Parris Island. For 12 weeks of boot camp, the recruits endure it all, putting their physical and mental strengths to the test.

"I've pushed myself harder than I've ever purchased myself before," said Recruit Brandon Simpson.

During recruit training, they learn the importance of the Marine Corps' core values, honor, courage and commitment and see them tested not only in the crucible but in all parts of training.

With Marines deploying all over the world, water survival training is a graduation requirement.

"When you're tired and you feel like you want to quit, you just keep pushing yourself and find out hey, you can do it," said Simpson.

Marksmanship is also another key element. Using the M-16 service rifle, they're taught essential skills needed in combat.

Through drill, they learn discipline and by the time they walk out on the parade deck for graduation, the drill instructors make sure every move is precise.

"It's very rewarding," said Drill Instructor Sgt. Matthew Gruel. "You see, basically it's like molding clay, you get this hunk of clay and by the end of the whole thing, you see the finished project, the transformation process is awesome."

Long after graduation, non will forget what it took to become part of this elite fighting force.

The skills they've learned on Parris Island are crucial as Marines perform their military duties at bases like Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. It's here where Marines train everyday.

"We have units here deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and other places throughout the world to provide close air support to the Marines, the combat elements on ground," said Sgt Major William Burton, Base Sergeant Major.

With 6 F-18 Marine Squadrons and 1 Navy squadron on base, most Marines on the air station provide a support role to get the F-18's in the air.

"For every flight hour, there are numerous maintenance hours required once that plane is on the ground, so the minute the plane lands, the marines are on it, working to get it ready to fly it's next mission," said Sgt Major Burton.

With flight operations going on daily, all Marines and Sailors are critical to the mission. Air Rescue Firefighters are on the flight line, ready at a moments notice. Air traffic control, marines work long and hard to keep the skies safe.

"Getting aircraft in and out of here is the primary function of this facility, if you can't do that safely, then you can't do it period and that's our job," said SSgt Shawn Redman.

The Marine Corps works in all ways all to defend our country.

While the mission at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort won't be changing, they are planning to replace the f-18 jet with the new f-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Station is expected to receive 5 squadrons, two training squadrons and three operational squadrons. The final word is expected in December.

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