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    Marine Corps

    The Marine Sentries(4:05)

    Four Marines are always on guard at the West Wing of the White House. These Marines go through an intense selection process, and they must maintain their composure at all times. 

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Sgt. J.D. Hodges: We're White House NCOs, White House sentries, and our main post is staying outside the west wing lobby to represent the president whenever he's in the west wing working.

There's four of us here. We work 30-minute shifts. 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off. Whenever the president gets in, we post as soon as he's in the oval office, or as soon as he's in the west wing, we'll post, and we'll be here until the president's done for the day.

Cpl. James Applewhite: My name is Cpl. James Applewhite. I've been at the White House for just a couple months now. I'm the rookie. That's correct.

Sgt. J.D. Hodges: The way it works is basically whenever the president is in the west wing, we're going to be on post. And we'll open the door when people come in and when people leave. And obviously you don't have eyes in the back of your head. So, when people leave, the Secret Service officer, they'll be sitting here. And one buzzer represents a person coming out. You hear that? One buzz. If the president leaves the west wing for anything, we'll come inside and stand by inside for, you know, however long, and it's going to be three buzzes, just three buzzes. Open it, and just come on in.

Cpl. James Applewhite: The White House post is one of those posts they tell you about, but no one expects to come here. It's very selective. There's only four Marines in the entire Marine Corps that get to do it, so I was pretty lucky to get the position.

My first morning at the White House, it was kind of like a dream. You walk in, the Secret Service lets you through. You feel like a VIP. I'm a little nervous, but more just an overwhelming sense of curiosity of everything around me. There's so much history jam-packed into this small area. It just overwhelms you.

Sgt. J.D. Hodges: Left face. Now we're both facing this way.

It's almost, you want to pinch yourself when you're walking in through the rose garden and you see the president sitting at his desk working, and you see people you see every single day on the news, and you're opening the door for them all of a sudden, within a foot away from them, almost surreal. And it's still pretty neat coming into work. You're pinching yourself sometimes.

Right over here, you'll usually have half a dozen cameras set up over there. And they're filming constantly. So that's good motivation to stay still, not twitch.

Basically, I got here and they said, you know, there's no talking, no smiling, no laughing on post. So that's all there is to it. So, if you got an itch on the nose, you know, just suck it up. It's hard sometimes, but if any Marine went to Parris Island, they can learn not to scratch for a few minutes. So it's okay.

Two Christmases ago, Byas was out here. And during Christmastime, they'll set out two huge Christmas trees out here. And it was blowing around. This Christmas tree fell over. And Byas had good composure, good bearing and didn't move at all. It was on YouTube somewhere. So you never know where your face is going to end up on TV, so that's good motivation to, you know, represent yourself well, represent the Marine Corps, and represent the president.

My friends give me a little bit of grief for being a doorman over here. But I tell them at least I'm the president's doorman. I've got the best doorman credentials in the world. I can go work at the Waldorf after this, I guess, if I wanted to.

Cpl. James Applewhite: When I tell them is, okay, how many times a day do you get to see the vice president or the president of the United States or any of the dignitaries? It's just a really honorable position to be in.

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