JINSA Visits Parris Island – Where they “Make Marines”

By Michael Nachman, JINSA Chairman; David Steinmann, Chairman of JINSA Board of Advisors; and David Justman, JINSA President

By Michael Nachman, JINSA Chairman; David Steinmann, Chairman of JINSA Board of Advisors; and David Justman, JINSA President

From April 15-17, we had the opportunity to join other JINSA Leaders on a unique visit to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.

Parris Island has been the site of Marine Corps recruit training since Nov. 1, 1915. Today, approximately 20,000 recruits come to Parris Island annually for the opportunity to become United States Marines by enduring 13 weeks of demanding and life changing training. As explained in Parris Island’s mission statement, the recruit training famously “Makes Marines” by recruiting quality young men and women and transforming them through the foundations of rigorous basic training, the shared Marine legacy, and a commitment to core values, preparing them to win our nation’s battles in service to the country.

JINSA Advisory Board member, Lieutenant General Earl Hailston, USMC (Ret.) organized the visit here for JINSA leaders. During his extensive service in the Marine Corps, General Hailston was Commanding General of United States Marine Corps Forces Pacific, U.S. Marine Forces Central Command, and U.S. Marine Corps Bases Pacific.

Over the three-day visit, our JINSA leadership saw and experienced the various and demanding steps in the process of how recruits are transformed into Marines.

The visit began with a welcome dinner at the beautiful home of Lieutenant General & Mrs. Nancy Hailston. Brigadier General Terry Williams, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting region, and his wife, BJ, joined in the dinner together with a Lieutenant Colonel and Captain from the base. The evening provided our delegation with a first hand and intimate introduction to what we were to learn and see during the next two days.

Throughout our time at Parris Island we visited many of their training facilities, including the opportunity to work with firearms instructors and shoot both pistols and rifles at the sophisticated training simulator where we were scored for our shooting and accuracy. Among a great many excellent briefings, we had an extensive one at the Drill Instructor School and also met with the Commanding Officer of the 4th Marine Recruit Battalion, the sole battalion for training female Marine recruits. The Drill Instructors explained that one of their goals is to instill in every Marine the core concept that they are now part of a team rather than single, individual Marine. If one recruit makes a mistake – and it is very easy for a Drill Instructor to find a “mistake” – the entire platoon bears the consequences.

One of us, David Steinmann, Chairman of JINSA’s Board of Advisors, told the group that “this was an extraordinary visit to an extraordinary place – the place where they quite literally ‘Make Marines.’ General Hailston made it possible for all of us to do what is indispensable to our mission – advocate for a strong American national security and defense – by providing us with the opportunity to spend real time with and learn from some of the men and women – both enlisted and officers – who protect our country. If you don’t do this, you are missing a key element in being able to represent our military to our citizenry. JINSA is unique in its programming, which provides that kind of contact regularly with all of our services.”

As part of our visit to Parris Island, we learned about the final challenge of recruit training which is known as the Crucible, a 54-hour training exercise, during which recruits are permitted two 4-hour periods of sleep. The exercise is designed to validate the physical, mental, and moral training inculcated into the recruits throughout their 13-week training program. The final stage of the Crucible is a 9-mile hike, carrying 65-pound backpacks, wearing full gear, including helmet and rifle, from the training grounds to the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue at Peatross Parade Deck. Upon completing this challenge, the recruits are presented with their Eagle, Globe and Anchor devices, symbolizing their induction into the United States Marine Corps.

We were also privileged to observe several special events including a very moving and emotional graduation ceremony, attended by many hundreds of friends and relatives of the new Marines, which also included a citizenship naturalization ceremony for 18 new Marines who, by virtue of having become Marines had earned the right to American citizenship. General Hailston was the Reviewing Official, a singular honor. We also observed a “motivational run,” during family day at the base. The runners pass all four training battalion headquarters, plus the Support Battalion and, at each battalion, selected recruits ring each of the Battalion Bells as the rest of the Company runs by chanting cadence. As the recruits run, parents, family members and friends line the streets to cheer them on.

After the program, General Hailston told our leadership, “Thank you to JINSA for allowing us to show off the Marine Corps this past week. Your leaders are sharp, smart, interested, interesting and all lots of fun. I enjoyed myself immensely!”

JINSA organizes base visits as part of our outreach efforts to make sure our supporters understand the work our servicemen and women are doing to keep us safe and to bring this knowledge back to their communities to be advocates for a strong U.S. military. In addition, these base visits help our military understand the issues that are important to the JINSA community.

If you would like more information about future base visits or our National Leadership, please contact Harris Vederman at or call 202-667-3900.