The Navy’s Master-at-Arms program has grown in importance since the events of September 11, 2001. Previously, the typical Master-at-Arms was primarily concerned with enforcing fleet regulations and acting virtually as a small town police officer for the Commanding Officer. Now, the new demands on the job include being the primary point for what the Navy calls “force protection/anti-terrorism.” As such, proper training for the Master-at-Arms rate is of vital importance for the safety of the fleet.
Master-at-Arms applicants receive their initial training at the Navy boot camp at the Navy Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. They study the history of the Navy, the traditions, and how to live within the rules and regulations of Navy service. Small arms training is of particular interest to the MA applicant. On occasion, the MA applicants may extend their time at the Training Center while waiting for further schooling, which gives them the opportunity for extra, specialized MA training on weapons and other aspects of their rate.
“ A” School
The basic, or “A” school, for the MA program is the 40-calendar day program at the Navy Law Enforcement Academy at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Entry-level knowledge in force protection/anti-terrorism is a priority for students. They also learn basic law enforcement skills, such as interviewing, self defense, arrest techniques, proper use of force, and security. The academy uses classroom time, laboratory time, and a computerized firearms training simulator to prepare students.
After graduation, new MA are sent into the fleet under the care of more experienced Masters-at-Arms, where they are expected to learn a significant portion of the MA rate skills and responsibilities. As they achieve various skill levels, it is documented in their permanent record, the Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS). Usually starting with simpler tasks, the MAs are given increased responsibility as they advance in rate, with each step documented.
The Navy maintains an extensive correspondence course training for each rate. The Master-at-Arms Training Manual covers the material needed, with 19 chapters, starting with the basic MA Third Class and going up to MA Chief Petty Officer. These courses have an instruction book with an extensive multiple choice test for each chapter.
According to the Training Manual it covers “…the following areas: rules and regulations; military law; search and seizure; military law of evidence; courts-martial; nonjudicial punishment; controlled substances; small arms; crowd control; physical security; military working dogs; patrol; customs; shipboard duties; investigations; forensics; evidence custody and administration.”
An experienced MA can take advantage of numerous avenues of specialized advanced training. Often, civilian training providers allow MAs to participate with their law enforcement counterparts. Courses include personal protection specialists, Homeland Security, corrections facility management and K-9 handlers.
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