SAN ANTONIO (NNS) -- It is a common refrain that the world has changed since the events of Sept. 11. Foremost among those changes is a heightened need for security.
Public places and organizations around the United States have instituted new force protection/anti-terrorism measures. Many Americans have also taken the time to re-examine their priorities in life and, as a result of this examination, are now stepping forward to serve their country as force protectors.
A great number of young people are joining the U.S. Navy with the intention of serving in one of the largest security forces in the world. In order to join the Navy job specialty or rating of Master-at-Arms (MA), candidates are given the opportunity to participate in six weeks of specialized training at academies such as the Law Enforcement/Master-at-Arms (LE/MA) School at Naval Technical Training Center (NTTC) located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
The LE/MA school has been conducting quality training since 1985, according to Cmdr. Tito Arandela, director of regional public safety, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas and a former assistant officer in charge of NTTC Lackland. Arandela noted that NTTC graduates are among the Navy's finest and represent the commitment with which training is conducted. Sailors affirm that same belief. "I feel proud to know that I have graduated from a place like NTTC and have the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class James Hicks, a recent graduate of the school.
Hicks directly attributes his decision to re-enter the Navy to the events of Sept. 11. He had previously served in the Navy for 12 years as a boatswain's mate. After three and a half years of being a civilian, came the tragedies in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. "The events of Sept. 11 mobilized me to take action. I went straight to the recruiter and within a few days I was back in the Navy ready for action," said Hicks.
"Hicks and others like him are finding there is a pressing need for law enforcement personnel in the armed services," said Arandela. With this need comes certain benefits. LE/MA candidates who successfully complete training, such as that at NTTC Lackland, may be entitled to bonuses of up to $5,000. These bonuses are in addition to receiving training that is recognized by many state, regional and national law enforcement/force protection agencies. "A great number of Navy law enforcement personnel go on to serve in civilian agencies and find that their military training greatly facilitates their transition certification," noted Arandela.
LE/MA students, like all Sailors, are also beneficiaries of the Navy College Program (NCP). NCP provides opportunities for Sailors to obtain college degrees by granting academic credit for Navy training, work experience, and off-duty education. The NCP overall mission is to enable Sailors to obtain a college degree while on active duty. Navy tuition assistance also helps by providing active duty personnel 100 percent tuition payments to cover required course costs, for up to 12 semester hours per fiscal year. This assistance includes courses taken in an off-duty status at an accredited college, university, or vocational/technical institution.
Lifelong learning is an important component of career growth and success, and Navy law enforcement training supports such growth. NTTC Lackland's LE/MA course receives a recommended five semester hours of credit from the American Council on Education that can be submitted when applying to colleges and universities. This course work and accession into a valuable occupation helps Sailors build valuable knowledge and experience essential for career advancement.
The course work offered at NTTC Lackland's LE/MA course is intended to provide students with entry-level knowledge, skills and expertise in force protection/anti-terrorism and safeguarding of personnel, property and material. Students receive instruction in a range of topics such as tactical verbalization skills, close-quarter tactics, military law, physical apprehension restraint techniques and use of force.
Instruction includes classroom lessons with laboratory time for practical experience, as well as exercises in techniques and procedures. NTTC Lackland employs a computerized fire arms training simulator to provide Sailors full interaction with digitized video training scenarios that might be encountered on the job. This training system is used as a tool to address the Sailor's judgment in the use of force, decision-making skills and marksmanship.
Sailors also receive one week of some of the best security force police combat marksmanship training in the Navy, according to Jim Hoever, range facilities manager at the antiterrorism force protection warfare development center. Gerald Weaver, NTTC's weapons course manager, also noted that, "NTTC Lackland has long been a leader in weapons training, and last year we were able to achieve a 98 percent weapons-qualification success rate with our students."
According to Sailors attending the course, the instructors are the ones that make the school so motivating. "The instructors are the perfect example of what masters-at-arms should be, and I think that they are great role models for the Sailors," said Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Travis Walton, a Sailor attending the course.
Master-at-Arms 1st Class Christian Bach, one of NTTC's weapons instructors, says he is always in awe of the students' desire and drive for self-improvement and personal growth. Bach, the Chief of Naval Education and Training 2001 Instructor of the Year, says he is proud to be part of the training process. "These Sailors have expectations that they will succeed and that they will be accepted into the fleet as highly trained, motivated Sailors, ready to tackle any task asked of them," said Bach. "Getting them ready for those tasks is our job as instructors."
Succeeding in the LE/MA School is just the beginning. Once students receive their diploma from NTTC Lackland, they will be assigned to a security detachment, ashore or at sea, under the guidance of a field-training officer. The field-training officer acts as a mentor for the new security policeman, continuing his or her training and providing indoctrination into the specific procedures for that command.
New security policemen will normally assume duties including guarding gates at facilities around the world, flight-line security, base security patrol or fence line security.
With time, they will then have the opportunity to enter various phase II training programs, which will prepare them and add to their collection of abilities. Eventually, most security policemen assume a field specialty, such as military working dogs, investigations, mobile security force or corrections, and they develop expertise in that area.
Whatever the Sailor's career interest, Arandela was quick to point out that all security policemen are extremely valuable members of the Navy, continuously working to preserve good order and discipline and to maintain the all-important core values of honor, courage and commitment. "Wearing a badge can and does make a difference," he said. "It is that difference that will take you far."
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