ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A Naval Academy tradition that lasted 155 years has come to an end: The Marine Corps sentries who guarded the gates and the crypt of Revolutionary War Capt. John Paul Jones have been withdrawn and sent to war.
The four dozen Marines were released from their security duties in a ceremony on Friday and are being replaced by Navy enlisted personnel.
"Pray for them, for many of them are going into harm's way," a chaplain said in an invocation for the departing members of the Naval Academy Company, Marine Barracks.
The Marines have provided security at the gates and for dignitaries' visits and special events on the academy campus since before the Civil War. They also performed largely ceremonial duties, including standing guard outside the crypt of Jones, one of the founders of the Navy.
"They've done much more, in their ability to look tough but remain pleasant," said Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, the academy superintendent.
Dozens of military installations across the nation have turned to civilian security officers in recent years, and the Navy is leaving that option open for the academy. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point brought on a private security firm in 2004.
The sentries will bolster U.S. forces stretched thin by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Obviously, we can use those Marines in more significant roles," said Gary Solis, a West Point professor and former official historian for the Marine Corps who frequently lectures at the Naval Academy. "But it's too bad a tradition like that has to end."