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Masters-At-Arms ... Detect, Defer, Defeat
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Phillips
May 18, 2019

During the end of the Revolutionary War, Congress realized a police force was needed for Navy ships. In 1797, Congress passed an act making it a requirement for all fleet ships to have a master-at-arms onboard.

Originally, these “sheriffs of the sea” were charged with keeping the pistols, carbines and muskets in good order.

Nowadays, USS Harry S. Truman’s (CVN 75) masters-at-arms act as security specialists trained in law enforcement, anti-terrorism measures and force protection.

“We live up to the meaning of ‘detect, defer, defeat,’” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Chantese Moore. “We encounter a threat or hostile situation, like an active shooter, and we mitigate anything that may arise out of the situation. We are the first ones on scene for every call, ranging from a theft report to an active shooter or bomb threat.”

January 24, 2019 - Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Jessica Cooper participates in a simulated active shooter drill as part of anti-terrorism training aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) moored at Naval Station Norfolk, while remaining operational ready. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Joseph A.D. Phillips)
January 24, 2019 - Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Jessica Cooper participates in a simulated active shooter drill as part of anti-terrorism training aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) moored at Naval Station Norfolk, while remaining operational ready. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Joseph A.D. Phillips)

Along with dealing with outside threats, masters-at-arms (MAs) are also charged with enforcing the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s (UCMJ) rules and regulations.

“I take a lot of pride in being a master-at-arms,” said MA2 John Queen. “The Navy has very high standards for its Sailors, and we are the ones charged with making sure everyone is living up to those standards by abiding by the UCMJ and the commanding officer.”

Moore, much like Queen, believes that the high standards start with how her rate enforces rules and regulations.

“We can make the Navy, along with our ship, a better place if we can hold ourselves accountable as well as our shipmates,” said Moore. “All of that starts with us upholding our rules and regulations.”

Lt. Cmdr. Robert Collett, Harry S. Truman’s security officer, and former MA for eight years, said he takes pride in his department and what they do day in and day out.

“MAs perform the ship’s only true 24/7 mission – force protection,” said Collett. “Whether it’s 20 degrees or 95 degrees, you’ll find my team out in the elements with their 20 plus pounds of body armor and weapons, standing posts that most people would believe are more of an inconvenience than a service to their shipmates.”

Being one of the oldest standing rates in the Navy, MAs, much like the other original rates, have had a lot of innovation. Even though the Navy did away with muskets and barrels of gunpowder, it still needs its sea sheriffs to keep Sailors safe and hold them accountable.

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