Officials Discuss Relocating Marine Training - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/20/04

Officials Discuss Relocating Marine Training

Each year, nearly 17,000 recruits become one of the few and the proud after going through boot camp at Parris Island. But that tradition could become history if a proposal to close Parris Island and move the training grounds to the Army's largest training base at Columbia's Fort Jackson, is accepted.

According to a recent article in the State newspaper, a senior Department of Defense official came up with the idea. Just talking about closing has many residents on edge, especially those on the Military Enhancement Committee (MEC) who've been fighting to keep the Tri-Command standing through the next round of base realignment and closure, or BRAC.

"Does it concern me? Yes, especially when you have non-military people making decisions and the decisions are based on dollars," said MEC chairman John Payne.

Through this next round of BRAC, the Department of Defense will be closing 25 percent of the nation's bases. This idea to shut down Parris Island is something Payne says wouldn't work. "We're turning out basic infantrymen at Parris Island. Ft. Jackson trains about half the recruits for Army, but they train the specialists, but there they don't train the infantry people."

In fact, he says it doesn't even make economic sense. "It would cost billions of dollars to move everything we have at Parris Island and reconstruct it there."

If this idea becomes a reality, it could be devastating to the community, especially those in the tourism industry who depend on the visitors Parris Island generates each year.

"Of course it varies from week to week, but some weeks we could have 40 to 50 percent of certain days filled with people going to Parris Island," said Jack Reynolds, general manager of the Hampton Inn.

If Beaufort were to lose Parris Island, it would mean $200 million in salaries the first year. But MEC officials say the real economic impact would be closer to three quarters of a billion dollars. That's a lot of money, not to mention the other things the base adds to the community.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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