By Neal Pugliese and Jennifer Tuckwiller
Sensational headlines and bold predictions stir emotion and generate clicks. They can also omit important details and obscure reality.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island is too important to this community, and to our national security, to allow simplistic narrative to prevail in the face of facts. Contrary to doom-saying headlines, Parris Island is a shining model of resiliency and adaptation that can inform and inspire the dozens of military bases and thousands of communities impacted by sea level rise.
MCRD Parris Island won the 2021 Secretary of the Navy’s Environmental Award for, “excellence in integrating environmental and operational sustainability efforts and mitigating impacts from storm surge and sea level rise through 2065.” When Naval Facilities Command developed a handbook for adapting to climate change, Parris Island was chosen as the pilot location to implement the plan.
Parris Island is blazing a trail within the Department of Defense by building long-term climate resiliency into all planning and construction projects. Practically speaking, this means elevating the firing positions at rifle ranges, restoring previously paved areas to pervious surfaces, raising roads, expanding stormwater capacity, and promoting healthy marshes as a buffer to tidal and storm events. It also means hardening communication conduits and generating enough power from solar and natural gas to meet all installation electricity needs.
More than $135 million has been spent in the past three years to enhance Parris Island’s resiliency, and more investments will be made as evidence and circumstances warrant. Only installations with a long horizon make these kinds of investments.
The Lowcountry Military Installation Resilience Review (MIRR) was recently completed by a team of engineers and environmental scientists at Parris Island, providing some important ground truth to speculative models about sea level rise impacts. The results of their analysis don’t paint a picture of doom and gloom, but rather provide an executable roadmap “to be proactive and prevent future negative disruptions” associated with sea level rise.
This roadmap includes future infrastructure investment recommendations for the installation and all of Beaufort County. Parris Island is already proving that, when you need a difficult thing done well, call a Marine … not a bureaucrat.
On the federal front, the federal government has a well-defined process called Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) to address military real estate and location decisions. Congress keeps a close watch on the BRAC process and the members of South Carolina’s federal delegation have been unequivocal in their support for Parris Island.
BRAC is not currently authorized by Congress, nor is a BRAC round expected next year. When the next official BRAC round opens, officials will follow a process to analyze and recommend what bases close and what missions realign.
Armed with the facts, our South Carolina elected officials can not only defend Parris Island, but they can also make a cogent argument to grow vital USMC missions in our region. Base decisions are not made by off-handed comments captured as click-bait.
Tradition is important to the U.S. Marine Corps, not out of sentimental nostalgia, but because lessons of past sacrifice are critical to shaping future Marines. For more than a century, Marines have been forged in the crucible called Parris Island. The second oldest Marine installation is integral to the legacy of the Corps.
As long as this country calls on Marines to be first in and last out of every armed conflict, Parris Island will play an essential role in national defense. Thousands of Marines who live, and vote, across the country will give that a big “OORAH.”
As the Navy’s Climate Action 2030 report details, many military installations, like many civilian neighborhoods, are threatened by sea level rise and other climate impacts. MCRD Parris Island is attacking that threat head on and is postured to stand strong as a model of resiliency for decades to come.
While some are sure that storms and tides will prevail, the smart bet is on our United States Marine Corps and Parris Island.
– Col. Neal Pugliese, USMC, Ret., is the Chairman of the Military Enhancement Committee of Beaufort County. Jennifer Tuckwiller is the Chairman of the Board of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.