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A recent video showing a pair of U.S. Marine sentries at the White House has gone viral. The reason? They appear to be practicing how to open and close a door.

The short clip quickly started making the rounds on Twitter on June 4 after Howard Mortman, the communications director for C-SPAN, shared footage of the Marines in their dress uniforms as they repeatedly opened and closed a door leading into the White House with the precision of a well-rehearsed drill movement.

As it turns out, their neat and ordered movements make sense because this is something that sentries at the White House practice — a lot.

“The Marines are constantly training and practicing every movement, down to the smallest details,” said Capt. Kathleen M. Kochert, a spokeswoman for Marine Barracks Washington, where the two Marines are stationed. 

“They especially rehearse prior to a VIP arrival,” Kochert told Task & Purpose.

In the video, Cpl Joshua A. Hogan and Cpl Taliek S. Brown can be seen wearing their Dress Blue uniforms with the white trousers sometimes worn by those serving in certain duty assignments during the summer season. Hogan was training Brown on the proper movements for his duties that day: to man a door at the White House, and open it each and every time in the exact same way — with sharp movements and a crisp about-face — whenever someone enters or exits.

According to a video published by the White House in December 2009, there are four Marine noncommissioned officers assigned to the White House as sentries at any given time. They work in 30-minute shifts and take their posts outside the West Wing whenever the president is inside. Since the Marines don’t have eyes in the back of their heads, as the video points out, they rely on a buzzer operated by a Secret Service agent to let them know when someone is exiting — one buzz — or if the president is leaving the building and that it’s time to go back inside — three buzzes.

While manning their post, Marine sentries take the age-old adage that “duty has no friends” to an extreme. Not only do they have no friends while on duty, there is also no laughing, no talking, no scratching, and generally no movement of any kind, aside from opening and closing the door.

That’s no idle claim, either. There was that time in 2006 during the holiday season when a Christmas tree outside the White House was blown over by the wind, and the Marine sentry standing outside in didn’t move — not one inch.

Now, if you’re wondering why it’s important that these Marines take time out of their day to practice how to open and close a door — as some on Twitter did — the answer is rather simple: Every time they step outside of the White House, they are in the public eye.

Case in point: In March, a photo showing a Marine sentry opening the door for Gianna Floyd, the 7-year-old daughter of George Floyd, went viral while she and her family visited the White House to meet with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on the one-year anniversary of her father’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Just consider that recent C-SPAN video for a moment. The cameraman probably didn’t rush over the second he saw two Marines walk outside and start opening and closing doors. The camera was likely already set up and rolling as usual outside the White House, and those Marines were well-aware they were being watched.

Fortunately, Hogan and Brown were clearly ready for the scrutiny, with each movement executed flawlessly. Though that doesn’t mean the video wasn’t without critics, particularly those who took to social media to ask why the Marines weren’t wearing their covers outdoors. But in all honesty, I don’t want to ruin an otherwise interesting and fun story with a debate about regulations that nobody really has a solid grasp on anyway. Let’s save that for another time and just enjoy the show.

Feature image: Marine sentries at the White House practice opening and closing a door outside the White House as part of their daily duties there. (C-SPAN/Twitter)

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