Charleston gracious host to Marine PME

15 Nov 2001 | Cpl. Mike Vrabel

Historic Charleston, S.C. played host recently to a group of officers and staff noncommissioned officers from Headquarters and Service Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group during a two-day professional military education (PME) trip.

The group of leaders made the 250-mile bus trip to observe and learn about the coastal town's rich military history. The PME, sponsored by the Marine Corps University, was the first of its sort for the battalion, according to Maj. Belinda Twohig, executive officer of H & S Bn.

"The purpose of the trip was to enhance camaraderie and 'espirit de corps'," explained Twohig, who is from St. Petersburg, Fla. "We chose Charleston because it has so much to offer in such a small area."

Charleston, also known as the "Holy City" for its vast array of church steeples that tower above everything else in the city, is best known for its role as a strategic military stronghold during the Civil War. The first shots of the struggle were fired into the port of Charleston, at Fort Sumter, an island fort guarding the mouth of the bay.

"It was neat to be where the Civil War started," said Twohig. "It is especially amazing after learning everything that happened here."

Following the tour of Fort Sumter, the group moved to Patriot's Point, home of World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. There, Marines and sailors visited the Medal of Honor memorial wall, an on-ship monument bearing the names and service of every Medal of Honor recipient throughout history.

The last stop during the PME, a visit to the first submarine to ever successfully destroy a ship in battle, turned out to be the group's favorite.

The CSS Hunley, a thirty-foot cylinder with barely enough room for a small crew, sank after destroying the USS Housatonic near Charleston. It was recovered in August 2000, and while still being researched, is on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center.

"The best part of the trip was seeing the Hunley," said Gunnery Sgt. Mark D. Gifford, the disbursing chief for H & S Bn. "Actually seeing the first submarine to succeed in destroying the target is leaps and bounds above reading about it. I found it fascinating that it was so small and propelled by hand.  What a show of absolute discipline."

"The PME brought together Marines of the command and gave us all an opportunity to see the faces at the other ends of the phone," added Gifford.