San Diego Union-Tribune

October 24, 2001

Navy's master-at-arms security force to be expanded


WASHINGTON -- The Navy is expanding and upgrading its key security force to protect its ships and shore installations against terrorism.

The force, called master-at-arms, will go from one of the Navy's smallest career fields to one of its largest.

The corps will grow from a force of 1,700 to about 9,000 within six years, said Cmdr. Chris Arendt, manager for enlisted personnel programs. Many of
the current jobs are one-year assignments, but that will change.

Although planning for the security improvements started earlier, it "probably got more support" after last year's terrorist bombing of the destroyer Cole in
Yemen, Arendt said.

The plan includes improved training designed to turn the small, frequently maligned force into a professional military security corps, said Lt. Cmdr. Myles Brooks, manager of master-at-arms programs at the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

To help train the additional personnel, the Navy has opened a new school in Norfolk, Va., and is considering starting another on the West Coast, probably in San Diego, the personnel managers said.

In the era of sailing ships, masters-at-arms were responsible for training and leading sailors in the defense of their ship or for boarding parties attacking
enemy vessels. More recently, they mainly enforced regulations aboard ship and shore stations, while Marines or civilian guards often handled external

During that shift, the force shrank in size and stature as the master-at-arms was viewed much like a policeman whose primary job is giving out tickets for
petty infractions.

"That's not the case any more. We now have a force that will be trained anti-terrorism and force-protection specialists that will be a valued member of the team," Brooks said.

"They will be an elite force," Arendt added.

Although masters-at-arms are assigned to ships, ranging from one or two on small warships to 16 on an aircraft carrier, most of the extra personnel will be
used to improve security at shore installations, Arendt said.

The Navy will seek to recruit most of the additional masters-at-arms from civilian life, but also will offer sailors in other specialties the chance to change.
Because the master-at-arms field is growing, it might provide sailors better career opportunities, the personnel managers said.

That includes the potential of becoming an officer, because many Navy security departments are run by warrant officers or limited duty officers who
are former enlisted masters-at-arms, Arendt said.

Although there is a growing demand for law enforcement and security officers in civilian society, Arendt believes the Navy can attract qualified recruits
because most police departments want people over age 21 and like applicants with military experience.

Master-at-arms applicants receive their initial training at Navy schools and get specialized training in law enforcement, security and other skills at joint service schools in Texas and Missouri.