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Pitman grad turned Marine watches over presidential helicopter
Marcel Cruz
U.S. Marine Corps Military Police Officer Marcel Cruz (second from right) salutes President Barack Obama as he steps off Marine One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland on June 1. Cruz, a Pitman High graduate, has been guarding Marine One for over three years. - photo by AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Pitman High School graduate Marcel Cruz always knew he wanted to travel one day — what he probably didn’t expect was that his travel companion would end up being President Barack Obama.


As a United States Marine Corps Military Police Officer, Cruz serves on the Presidential Guard, a position which requires him to travel alongside Obama. He can be seen saluting the president as he boards and disembarks his helicopter.


“I wanted to travel and see the world, and what better opportunity to do that and basically get paid to do it? It is definitely a highlight to be able to salute the president, too.


“I’ve never personally talked to him [Obama], but I get to go to the White House and meet the president once my five year contract is up. I’ll actually be shaking the new president’s hand though,” added Cruz.


Less than two years after graduating from Pitman High School in May 2011, Cruz made the decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps and left for boot camp in San Diego in January 2013.


“I’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger,” said Cruz. “I didn’t want to just stay in Turlock my entire life. I always wanted to go out and travel and see the world. This was my opportunity.”


Cruz said he never expected to end up on the Presidential Guard until Senior Marines from the program told him about the job while he was receiving specializing training for Military Police in Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. After submitting an application and undergoing an extensive background check, Cruz was selected to serve on the Presidential Guard and was stationed in Quantico, Virginia in October 2013.


“Our mission is to maintain security of all presidential assets, mainly his helicopters,” said Cruz. “So whenever he is away on trips, we travel with him to guard them.”


Cruz said guarding the helicopter is an around-the-clock type of job with its own challenges, including making sure bystanders do not enter restricted areas to take pictures whenever the president travels — something that can vary between once a month to sometimes five times a month. Besides that, the only other challenge he encounters is homesickness.


“I do get homesick every once in awhile, so when I can I take a couple weeks off and come home to kind of relax and wind down,” said Cruz.


Reflecting on the reason he decided to join the Marines nearly four years ago, Cruz said that he has accomplished his traveling goal with trips to Australia, Jamaica, Canada, Spain and all over the United States under his belt.


Cruz said next month will mark his fourth year in the Marines. Once his five-year contract is up next year he said he is not entirely sure what his future holds, however, he knows where he is going to go first.


“I definitely want to come home — at least for a month or two,” said Cruz.