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    Guardians of the Fleet



    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class James Wilson 

    All Hands Magazine

    The young Sailors waited in anticipation. Nervous discussions and anticipation dominated the conversations scattered throughout the crowd, hidden by the collective cheers.

    “You got this!”


    They watched on, awaiting their turn as the instructor’s hand raised to meet the student’s gaze. In its blue nitrile grip is a can of oleoresin capsicum—known fleetwide as “OC spray” and nationwide as pepper spray.

    This is just one of the dramatic moments of the master-at-arms “A” school training conducted at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. One by one, Sailors come face-to-face with this glove-clad instructor who proceeded to spray the notorious irritant directly into Sailors’ eyes.

    To pass this portion of the training, the students were sprayed in the face and asked to open their stinging eyes long enough to see how many fingers the instructor holds in front of them. Once the potential master-at-arms provided the correct number, they traversed a course where they demonstrated basic non-lethal weapons mastery learned during training to fend off simulated assailants.

    “We are the guardians of the fleet,” said Lt. Jessica Bentley, sitting beneath the large master-at-arms shield that adorns the wall of their graduation room. “It is our job to protect life, assets and property. We have to be beyond reproach. We have to live up to our creed, and if we waver from that creed, we must hold ourselves accountable.”

    Bentley, the Director of Training at Naval Technical Training Center on Lackland AFB, is charged with training and developing Sailors to become proficient and effective master-at-arms during their “A” school and “C” school courses. The shield earned here will be stitched above the breast pocket of their uniform, representing the responsibility that all MAs hold to embody and enforce the rules and regulations of the Navy. Before this happens, students must complete nine weeks of training before transitioning to their commands throughout the fleet.

    “The training that we give Sailors here is the foundation,” said Bentley. “It’s just like if you are building a house. Once the foundation is strong, you can build up on it with anything. Regardless of the platform they go to, our Sailors are prepared with that solid foundation. They can get more of that site-specific information in the fleet.”

    The master-at-arms “A” school is full of high-stress events designed to simulate real world scenarios. Some of the core curriculum, like law enforcement basics, are consistently taught. However, certain portions of the curriculum were updated or transitioned to Ready, Relevant Learning or RRL –switching responsibility from the fleet to the schoolhouse.

    RRL is a new fleetwide initiative designed to give Sailors modernized training at the proper points in their career. New training techniques are being adopted, and the mantra of ‘the right training at the right time’ is setting a new standard for how Sailors are equipped with the necessary tools they need to successfully complete their designated roles within the scope of the Navy’s larger mission.

    “A prime example [of RRL] is getting Sailors the active shooter training sooner,” said Bentley. “Prior active shooter [training] used to fall on the fleet. We’ve now incorporated that [training] here, making them more prepared once they get to the fleet to have the capability for additional training.”

    They have also adopted new technologies, such as the stress vest, to help provide high-end learning capabilities. Instructors can trigger the stress vests strategically to deliver a small shock to students, helping ensure proper maneuvering tactics are employed during active shooter situations.

    “It is a very good training tool,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Victor Castro, an Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection Instructor at the schoolhouse. “I'm a big fan of this training tool because we try to give the most realistic training that we can. The purpose is to get their adrenaline pumping. There is going to be a lot going in in the moment, and you have to try to understand how to make the right decisions under those stress levels.”

    Stress is a key component of the curriculum. Even the classrooms themselves, which are named for fallen MAs, serve as a reminder of the seriousness of the profession. The students familiarize themselves with each of these cases, studying what went wrong should they be faced with similar situations.

    “Knowing the Sailors we have lost over the years that have worn these badges carries with it an extreme responsibility,” said Bentley. “If their mental and combat mindsets are prepared, they have a better chance of being successful. We want them to understand the big picture and we do everything in our power and the instructors are extremely passionate about ensuring that we can give the best training we can to prepare them the best way we can for the fleet.”



    Date Taken: 04.23.2021
    Date Posted: 12.30.2021 12:23
    Story ID: 412148
    Location: SAN ANTONIO, TX, US 

    Web Views: 31
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