PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — The economic impact statement for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for Fiscal Year 2018 shows an impact of $579.518 million.
How did the island,a training home for Marine Corps recruits, grow to have that kind of impact?
A French Huguenot expedition led by Jean Ribault in 1562 was the first to colonize the island in current-day South Carolina. An outpost named Charlesfort was built and abandoned a year later. The Spanish founded a settlement in 1566, which was abandoned in 1587.
The land eventually went into the hands of the British after being purchased by Col. Alexander Parris, treasurer of the South Carolina colony, in 1715. It was divided into a number of plantations and remained in that state through the Civil War, becoming home to freed slaves during and after the conflict.
The island became a casualty of war when nearby Port Royal Sound was captured by Union forces in 1861. It became a coal station for the Navy, a function taken up after the war thanks to the fight for the creation of a new military installation.
The Marines Corps first came to the island in 1891 in the form of a small security detachment that became commended for preserving life and property from hurricanes and tidal waves. Military buildings and homes were constructed to form the heart of the historic district up to World War I.
In 1915, the island was officially turned over to the Marines for the purpose it fulfills today. Ferries were used to transport recruits until bridges were built, with influxes coming onto Parris Island when the United States engaged in war.
On Feb. 15, 1949, a separate command later designated as the 4th Recruit Training Battalion was activated for the sole purpose of training female recruits. It now serves as the only battalion for training female Marines, while Parris Island trains only male recruits from east of the Mississippi River.
At the depot is a museum detailing some of the island’s history, as well as other events that give insight into why the traditions and values the Marines hold so dear exist.
The symbol of the eagle, globe and anchor associated with the Corps was designed by Wheeler Humbert, a metal worker on the crew building a new bridge from Parris Island to Port Royal Island during World War II. The symbol was on the depot’s main entrance sign for some time, and now is seen on most things associated with the Marines.
The museum outlines the onboarding of women, gives biographies of celebrities who have served as Marines and explains the role of Marines in every war the nation has fought.
Some exhibits are marked with yellow footprints similar to the ones recruits step on at the very beginning of their training with the intention of calling the attention of the recruits, who are educated about the history of the Marines as part of their training.
One of these items explains the foundation of the Corps’ motto, “Semper Fidelis” — or “Always Faithful.” It was first used by Gen. Charles McCawley, the Marine Corps commandant from 1876-91.
Training comes in four phases. The first phase consists of four weeks that include history and customs lessons, leadership classes, hiking, the obstacle and confidence courses, drilling, martial arts, water survival, the gas chamber, rappel tower, pugil sticks, drilling and combat care.
The second phase is more hiking and drilling, a bayonet assault course, marksmanship, a physical fitness test and additional obstacle course training. Phase III is combat leadership, warrior training, land navigation, a combat fitness test, leader development, the Crucible Course and final physical training and written training.
The fourth phase consists of platoon discussions and further leadership development before the last fitness exercises prior to reunions with families and graduation — one of 40 such ceremonies conducted each year at the depot.
At that point, the recruits become Marines and are permanently ingrained in the traditions and history developed in the Corps over the course of more than two centuries.
“For recruits, graduation is the culmination of 13 weeks of blood, sweat and tears,” a program from one of the 12 annual educator workshops at Parris Island said. “For families, it is a time to see if the Marine Corps has lived up to the remarkable transformation the recruiter promised when they picked up their child to ship to Parris Island.”
After their 10 days of leave following graduation, new Marines report to School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, N.C. They are then assigned their first duty station, and the journey begins to Marine Combat Training Battalion School of Infantry, along with additional training to learn their individual trades and assignments to bases and units around the globe.
“How far a Marine goes in life is only limited by their own needs and desires,” Brig. Gen. James Glynn, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Region, said in a welcome letter to persons taking part in a recent workshop program. “During recruit training, we instill our core values of honor, courage and commitment into every recruit, and after recruit training, we demand the Marines practice these values in every facet of their lives.
“This means that even after individuals leave the Corps, those values remain a part of them.”