Lots of change in store for local Marines

The new year is likely to bring more construction at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, possible changes at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and the much-anticipated homecoming of several units of Beaufort Marines.

Construction sites and hard hats will continue to be a common site at Parris Island as the depot works to update aging facilities at the 94-year-old base.

Most notably, construction crews will continue work this year on a $78.4 million project to build new barracks for Parris Island's 3rd Recruit Battalion. The 3rd Battalion is currently housed in some of the depot's older facilities, most of which were built in the 1960s.

The project, the largest single-military construction job in Parris Island history, will help the depot better manage its resources, said Lt. Sharon Hyland, depot spokeswoman.

"The future 3rd Battalion complex will consolidate the nearly 10 barracks through the depot into four centrally located buildings," Hyland said. "By centrally locating all of the facilities for 3rd Battalion, we can maximize the efficiency and functionality of our resources, thereby further contributing to our mission of 'making Marines.'"

The new barracks complex will also be LEED-certified, a system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to reduce the environmental impacts of new construction.

Construction also will move forward on a consolidated mess hall for 2nd and 3rd Recruit Battalions, and an $8.4 million child development center that will provide full-day, part-day and hourly child care for 200 to 305 children.

All three projects are expected to be completed in 2011, Hyland said.

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will welcome home some of its units this year that have been deployed overseas, including the Marines of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 who return to Fightertown next week. The Hawks were deployed to Iwakuni, Japan, in July as part of the Unit Deployment Program.

2010 is also expected to brie return of a detachment of Marines from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, who in March deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Many in Beaufort are also awaiting the release of the first draft of a report about the arrival and operation of the Joint Strike Fighter at the air station.

In addition to examining the jet's effects on noise and the base's compatible-use zone, the report will detail how the Corps expects to allocate more than a dozen JSF squadrons between MCAS Beaufort and MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina. The 13 squadrons include 10 operational squadrons, one reserve squadron and two training squadrons, according to the Corps.

MCAS Beaufort could receive all of the training squadrons and none of the operational squadrons, or a combination of the two, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The report is expected to be released in April.

Officials at Naval Hospital Beaufort could not be reached for comment on this story.