MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY --
When Hurricane Matthew traveled up the Atlantic coast recently, more than 6,000 recruits from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, sought shelter aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.
Observing the recruits training during the evacuation allowed Montford Point Marine Henry L. Jackson to revisit his past.
Jackson, 87, graduated basic training at Montford Point, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 1947.
According to the Montford Point Marines’ website, in 1942, then-president Franklin D. (Theodore) Roosevelt established a presidential directive giving African-Americans an opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps.
The website further states that African-Americans, from all states, were not sent to the traditional boot camps of Parris Island, South Carolina and San Diego, California. Instead, they were segregated, experiencing basic training at Montford Point.
Approximately 20,000 African-American Marines received basic training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949, according to the website.
“It’s been nearly 70 years since I joined the Marine Corps,” Jackson said. “It was good training. I was a young boy at the time. I went in at the age of 17.”
Jackson said seeing the recruits brought back a lot of memories, and explained the Corps was a lot different in 1946 than it is today.
“(It) was segregated back in that time,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to reminisce about something like that, but it was something you could not do anything about. We had black instructors, not like it is now.”
Jackson compared the Marines’ training in 1946 to the ones of today.
“Like (the drill instructors) do now, they taught (us) about weapons and drilling,” he said.
Adding, it makes him feel good seeing there is no segregation and everyone works together.
While the recruits were preparing to leave, Jackson observed them conducting combat care and learning Marine Corps history.
“Back in my day, you would not have this kind of training,” he admitted. “The recruits are getting better training now than I did when I was in.”
According to Jackson, he spent one year on active duty and then took advantage of an early out program the Marine Corps offered due to the end of World War II.
“I took advantage of that because when I (joined the Marine Corps) I had not finished high school,” he pointed out. “I went back and graduated from Monroe High (in Albany, Georgia,) in 1949.”
He then joined the Air Force with the hopes of becoming a pilot, but there were no positions available since the war was over. Instead, Jackson became an administrative supervisor and held that position until his retirement 22 years later. He retired with the rank of master sergeant.
Nearing his 70th anniversary of becoming a Marine, Jackson said he was glad to have the opportunity to see the recruits.
“I never have been in a group of that magnitude,” he concluded. “It made me feel good to be in their midst.”