USMC recruits to stay put after all, but is it the right call?

Eric Dehm
September 13, 2018 - 1:15 pm

Official Marine Corps Photos by Sgt. Dana Beesley

Evacuating in the face of an oncoming storm is an incredibly painful task if you're single, worse if you have a family. So it's hard to fathom how ridiculously inconvenient it would be if you're in charge of around 1,000 Marine Recruits and tasked with getting them ready for battle, but have to put them all on buses to avoid a hurricane.

Ensuring the safety of those Recruits is front and center in Brigadier General James Glynn's job description. This would seem to be why, as Hurricane Florence strengthened and eyeballed South Carolina earlier this week, the MCRD Parris Island commander ordered the evacuation of the depot. 

Now, the General has reversed course and announced that he is rescinding the evac order, as are Marine commanders at Camp Lejeune, NC and MCAS Beaufort, SC.  

So why is this happening? Well, as it says right there in the statement, the Governor of SC has lifted the evacuation order, and the Marines are following suit. It's an understandable move, and hopefully it's the right one. The storm's downgrading to Category 2 and change in track might make it the right call, but there are a couple lines in that statement that aren't sitting right with some people, myself included.

It reads: "Safety is still our principle focus. With any decision there is a degree of risk, and we believe the logistical efforts of moving all personnel to MCLB Albany now exceed the risk of remaining at MCRD Parris Island." 

You might wonder what, exactly, are the risks of moving to an inland Georgia facility that is not in the path of the storm? Are they safety risks? Sure, a bus could get into an accident on the road, but that's a different kind of risk than leaving recruits in a low-lying coastal area in the sights of a massive storm with sustained winds of 83-95 knots, significant damage, and flooding. 

Or are the "risks" the loss of training time and cost of shipping those aspiring Devil Dogs to Georgia and back? Either way, a quick browsing of social media finds quite a few family members of Marines and Recruits on the island are none too pleased.

Later, the General released an update saying that families and non-essential personnel were being encouraged to leave the area, not for safety reasons but for "comfort" reasons... because as everyone knows the Marine Corps is notoriously concerned with being comfortable. Logically, doesn't it stand to reason that a storm capable of making things uncomfortable would also be capable of making them unsafe?

I'm going to assume this decision is made in good faith, with more data available than the average joe has. I have no reason not to, but the optics of it all, including going back and forth, aren't good. Optics don't matter too much if all goes according to plan but if there's one serious injury or, God forbid, death that results from holding fast? They'll matter plenty.  

This is the life of an officer in charge of an installation. Some of his decisions are going to be questioned, second-guessed, and complained about no matter if he's removing ice cream from the base menu, moving the smoke deck out to the boonies, or telling his charges that they are going to batten down the hatches and tough it out through a hurricane. 

Sometimes unpopular decisions need to be made. In this instance we should all be pulling for this one to turn out to be right.

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