Marines Pulled from Cermonial Duty at Naval Academy

In order to maximize the number of troops available for combat, the Marines are ending a 155-year tradition of guarding the gates of the United States Naval Academy.

When Lance Cpl. Edward Voumard, 20, signs off after his shift early Sunday morning guarding an entrance to the U.S. Naval Academy, he will be one of a handful of Marines who close the book on a 155-year tradition. Voumard, who has been stationed at the academy since completing initial training after enlistment, said he would miss Annapolis very much. As for the shift: “It’s just another day,” he said yesterday.

Since just a few years after the Naval Academy’s founding in 1845, Marines have guarded the military college and performed ceremonial duties. They were initially quartered on ships stationed at the sea wall off the Severn River. The 48 Marines of the U.S. Naval Academy Company, Marine Barracks, Washington, are being reassigned to installations at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Twentynine Palms, Calif. They will be replaced by enlisted Navy personnel and possibly additional federal security forces if a threat level is raised, officials said. A ceremony marking their departure will be held this morning at the academy.

The decision to remove them was made at the highest levels of the Navy and the Marine Corps, officials said, as part of a program to reposition Marines to the combat units. The decision was partly influenced by the global war on terrorism but had been in the works before that, said Marine Corps spokeswoman Lt. Elle Helmer. “The Marine Corps has always been looking for ways to remain a premier fighting force and use their Marines wisely to add to our mission accomplishment and successes,” she said. “This was a positive way that Annapolis would benefit from having sailors operate the gates and the Marine Corps would benefit by sending these Marines to the operating forces.”

Troops who guarded bases all over the country have been similarly repositioned in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, sometimes replaced by military police and sometimes by private security companies, such as at Fort Meade. But the decision to remove the Marine company from the academy was a harder one because of their tradition in guarding the college, performing ceremonial duties at funerals, raising flags and guarding the crypt of John Paul Jones. “Marine officers and enlisted [personnel] will still work here in other capacities, so there will be that Marine service presence here for midshipmen and for the rest of the faculty and staff,” said Cmdr. Tom McKavitt, who manages operations at the 160-year-old institution. “It just won’t be at the gate.”

While their symbolic value has been tremendous, sending these men off to be utilized as Marines were intended makes a powerful statement, too.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    A much bigger symbolic and practical change would be to replace the Marine embassy guards with another force (perhaps an extension of the secret service, perhaps Army, or whatever). This would free up about 1,000 Marines.

  2. spencer says:

    You are clearly correct that this is a powerful statement that this administration is still unwilling to provide the military with the resources they need to win the WoT because it might force them to give up some of their tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Think of all the good Marines that have died because of poor armor so that the Bush girls will never have to pay any taxes.

  3. DaveP. says:

    Spencer, teh tax cuts have revitalized the economy after September 11 and led to a vast increase in overall tax revenue. Now you want to RAISE taxes and cripple the economy because it would meet the approval of your agenda? No thanks. If there is too little money in the military budget why aren’t you crying for social programs and farm subsidies to be cut?

    As far as the Bush daughters serving, you obviously oppose the War on Terror. Why aren’t you out in the desert with a Semtex vest on, with your spiritual bretheren? Are you just chicken? Or do you feel you’ll do more to support America’s defeat by working from within?

  4. Rick DeMent says:

    As long as the massive deficit spending continues unabated, the economy would not even peep if taxes were restored to previous levels. I mean really, giving the credit of the rather weak economic performance to the presidents 20 or 30 billion (per year)in tax cuts in light of the fact that the deficit spending is a least ten times that amount clearly show that Dave P. can’t add and should not be making cartoonishly two dimensional statements about he economy.