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Marine Sergeants Get New Running Mate

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 11, 2007 – Three U.S. Marine sergeants serving as security guards at the U.S. Consulate here had special company this morning during their morning run.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates joined Sgts. Akim Jones, of Bronx, N.Y.; Brandon Foote, of Atlanta; and Craig Harris, of Dallas, for a 3-mile run through the English Gardens.

“We started at about 0625,” Jones told American Forces Press Service. “It took us about 30 minutes.”

Gates was in town for an international security policy conference. He mentioned wanting to run outside his hotel, but his security team suggested a safer course -- running in the park with the Marines.

Several members of the secretary’s traveling party also joined the run.

With their traditional steadfast aplomb, the Marines took Gates’ visit in stride.

Jones sang cadence more or less to himself part of the way even though it was a free-form run. He said the secretary asked the sergeants basic questions, like where they were from, how many combat tours they’d had, and how long they’d been in Munich.

“This morning was fun. I actually enjoyed running with the secretary of defense,” Jones said.

Jones joined the military at 19. He said he enlisted because he’s a patriot. “Pretty much everyone in my family has served. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was a Marine.”

Jones served seven years in the Navy before enlisting in the Marine Corps shortly after terrorists attacked New York’s World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I lost a few family members and a lot of friends (in New York),” he said. “It was very painful.”

Jones lost two uncles with Fire Station 55 and an aunt with the New York Police Department in the attack. After seven years in the Navy with deployments in Colombia, Haiti and Kosovo, Jones decided to switch to the Marine Corps.

“I wanted to get into the fight,” he said.

At age 27, Jones went through Marine Corps basic training at Parris Island, S.C.

“I was a Seabee in the Navy and we’re trained by the Marines so I was used to the physical part,” he said.

Being somewhat older than the young recruits gave him an edge on the mental part, he added.

Marine training stresses the importance of individual action, Jones said. “We’re mostly trained to fight as a unit, but each person is also a trained leader,” he explained. “A private can lead a sergeant if he has to. It just depends on the situation.”

Infantry training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., came next, followed a second tour in Haiti -- he served one while he was in the Navy -- and two tours in Iraq.

“Combat is never fun,” Jones said.

He said intense fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. “There was a lot more action than on my prior (tours). I don’t like talking about it too much, though.”

Jones plans on making the military at least a 20-year career. After that, he wants to stay in the government. “Hopefully,” he said, “I’ll work for one of the ‘alphabet crews’ -- CIA, DEA -- somebody.”

Perhaps his influential new running mate Robert Gates can help him land a job.

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Robert M. Gates

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