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Follow the drum major

21 Oct 2011 | Cpl. Johnny Merkley

“Every Marine a rifleman” is a well known expression in the Marine Corps community. It implies that regardless of one’s occupational specialty, every Marine has been trained and can be effective as a basic infantryman.

This statement holds true throughout the Marine Corps even in some of the most unexpected places, such as the 2nd Marine Division Band. Gunnery Sergeant Andrew J. Cox is the drum major for the 2nd MarDiv Band who has gone outside the band field multiple times in his 13 year career to lead Marines.

“I joined the Marine Corps because my father was a Marine and I knew they were the best,” said Cox. “While my job is to be a percussionist, I am first a Marine and leading Marines comes with every rank you pick up.”

Cox deployed in 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as the sergeant of the guard on Camp Blue Diamond, Ramadi, with the 1st Marine Division Band.

“I’m glad I got the opportunity to deploy,” said Cox. “My job was to walk around the camp to various posts and ensure the Marines were doing their duties.”

Although many band Marines stay within their occupation specialty for their entire careers, Cox again took on another challenge and became a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

“I was a recruit in his company when he was a drill instructor,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Schott. “When I learned I was going to be stationed with him I was very happy, he motivates me and inspires me to be a better Marine.”

Cox also become a combat water survival instructor and earned his black belt in the Marine Mixed Martial Arts Program, but for all the accomplishments in his short career, there is a specific motive that drives and inspires Cox to accomplish these many achievements.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do any of these things without my wife,” said Cox, “She keeps my spirits up in the worst of times and helps me every step of the way.”

Cox plans on retiring as a sergeant major and again going outside the band field, maybe into an occupation specialty unlike anything he’s seen before.

“I love music and I love the band, but I also love taking on new challenges” said Cox. “If I become a first sergeant and then sergeant major they could throw me anywhere in the Marine Corps—I could even be with an infantry battalion if that’s where they needed me.”