The Marine Corps is considering moving some of its bases to other locations, including the iconic Parris Island training depot, in response to the growing effects of climate change, Navy officials said.
“I’m aware that there are conversations in the Marine Corps about the possibility of moving bases right now,” said Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the Navy for environment, installations and energy, during a phone call Monday when asked to move the Parris Island facility.
“We are seeing real impacts there in terms of geography, in terms of … impacts that we have seen in storms, impacts on water,” Berger explained, speaking specifically about Parris Island, before adding that ‘”They’re usually on the way to a storm there.”
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A series of recent reports predicted that Parris Island will face increasingly frequent and fierce hurricanes, flooding and extreme heat.
These rising temperatures are already a growing risk for interns on the island. Between 2016 and 2020, Parris Island reported 576 cases of heat-related illnesses, according to a study released last year by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch.
Berger’s comments, made as part of the Navy’s rollout of its “Climate Action 2030” plan, come as the Pentagon worries about the effects of climate change on the force as a whole.
Contacted by Military.com, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Kevin Stephensen said, “Both Marine Corps recruiting depots are facing significant infrastructure issues that are negatively impacting the long-term training of our future force”.
“In order to address these challenges, it is prudent to explore all options for a solution, including understanding the cost-benefits of a consolidated recruit training site,” Stephensen added.
Stephensen noted that a new consolidated base “is just one of many modernization efforts we are exploring”, before adding that it is “too early to discuss or speculate further”.
Founded in 1915, Parris Island has been training Marine recruits for over 100 years. As a result, the base, whose iconic motto is “We Make Marines”, holds a special place in the already lore-centric Corps.
“What happens on the parade decks of Parris Island…is what makes the Marines,” Gen. Carl Mundy wrote in a leadership guide when he was Corps commandant in the 1990s.
This is not the first time that the future of Parris Island has been debated by the Pentagon and service officials. Commanding General David Berger told Military.com in 2020 that the training center replacement was possible because the base in South Carolina had not fully integrated gender-neutral training, fueling speculation the camp was closing. historical training.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, along with nearby city and town officials, sounded the alarm about how economically devastating the base closure in the area would be. Parris Island and nearby Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort provide $1.5 billion in economic activity to the state, as well as 12,000 jobs, according to a report by South Carolina’s Lowcountry Council of Governments, an organization that advocates the state’s coastal communities.
But Parris Island is far from the only military installation that may have to be abandoned or modified due to climate change.
Last year, the Department of Defense announced a bold climate adaptation plan focused on managing and dealing with the costly effects of the increase in natural disasters and extreme weather that have plagued the force in recent years.
Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska was hit by disastrous flooding in 2019, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida was hit by $3 billion worth of hurricanes in 2018, and military bases in California continue to deal with increasing problems of repeated forest fires.
More recently, the environmental threats facing Parris Island and Beaufort were outlined in a report funded by the Department of Defense and released last month by the Lowcountry Council of Governments.
The results show that increasing natural disasters, high levels of precipitation and coastal erosion are serious factors facing the largest Marine Corps training facility on the East Coast.
While military officials at Parris Island and Beaufort have focused on small fixes such as raising roads to mitigate damage, scientists are sounding the alarm about long-term problems the bases could face.
“By 2050, areas currently prone to flooding at both bases could experience tidal flooding more than 300 times per year and be underwater nearly 30% of the year under the highest scenario” , according to a 2016 case study from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization.
Hurricane-prone areas of South Carolina will continue to experience more dramatic rainfall and flooding, and by the end of the century the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that nearly three-quarters of the base of Parris Island could be underwater due to daily tides.
The Lowcountry Council of Governments report says continued projects will be needed around Parris Island, MCAS Beaufort and the surrounding community to mitigate the damage and impact of more extreme weather events and climate change.
Many of these projects will have high prices. Base leaders told the South Carolina State Journal last year that they expect $200 million in improvements in the coming years.
It’s hard to overstate how central the installation plays to the identity of the Marine Corps.
It was Parris Island that created the now infamous yellow footprints that recruits first stand on after getting off the bus. They appeared in January 1965, according to the Marine Corps base history. The base was also featured in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film “Full Metal Jacket” with R. Lee Ermey playing the memorable drill instructor.
“Parris Island has the designation of being the second oldest post in the Marine Corps,” boasted a Marine history of the base. “Over the past 100 years, Parris Island has created over one million new Marines and will remain true to its commitment to country and nation for the next 100 years.”
Will Grimsley, secretary of the South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs, which also lobbies for military bases in the state, said Parris Island’s famous “We Make Marines” sign should continue to ring true in the state despite increased climate threats.
“There’s a local impact, but it’s broader,” Grimsley said. “It’s national and international. Parris Island is an iconic training center for Marines. … I think it’s here for a long time, and South Carolina is proud to host them.”
Editor’s Note: This story and title were updated after a Marine Corps spokesperson provided post-publication comment.
— Konstantin Toropin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
— Thomas Novelly can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
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