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A Master-at-Arms (MA) may be a naval rating responsible for law enforcement and force protection, an army officer responsible for physical training, or a member of the crew of a merchant ship (usually a passenger vessel) responsible for security and law enforcement. In some navies a “ship’s corporal” is a position, not the rank of a petty officer who assists the master at arms in his various duties.

United Kingdom

On board HMS Rodney, the master-at-arms (left) reads out the names at the “captain’s defaulters and requestmen” parade (a type of court martial for minor offences), during World War II

Royal Navy

The Master-at-arms (MAA) is a ship’s senior rating, normally carrying the rank of chief petty officer or warrant officer. He or she is in charge of discipline aboard ship, assisted by regulators of the Royal Navy Police, of which he is himself a member. The non-substantive (trade) badge of an MAA is a crown within a wreath.

The post of master-at-arms was introduced to the Royal Navy during the reign of King Charles I; their original duties were to be responsible for the ship’s small arms and edged weapons, and to drill the ship’s company in their use.[1] This was not an onerous task, and masters-at-arms came to be made responsible for “regulating duties”; their role as weapons instructors was eventually taken over by the chief gunner.[2]

The MAA is addressed as “Master” if holding the rank of chief petty officer, regardless of gender, and is often nicknamed the “jaunty”, a corruption of the French gendarme, or the “joss/jossman”.

British Army

In the British Army , a master-at-arms is a commissioned officer of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, posted as an SO2 or SO3 at Divisional HQ or higher command, and responsible for overseeing all fitness training in subordinate units. The role is filled by RAPTC WO1s at Brigade HQs, while WO2s or Staff Sergeant PTIs are embedded at unit level.

Master-at-Arms is also an appointment in the Army Cadet Force, given to a cadet with the rank of cadet sergeant or above who takes command of drill on a divisional level.

United States Navy

United States Navy Master-at-Arms
Navy MMA Law Enforcement Badges.png

Master-at-Arms Badge
Active 1797 – Present (August 1st official birth date as per BUPERSNOTE 1440 CH-1 of 1973)
Country  United States of America
Allegiance Constitution of the United States of America
Branch  United States Navy
Type Naval Security Force
Size 8,000+ Master-at-Arms[3]
Part of U.S. Department of the Navy
Garrison/HQ United States Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk, VA
Colors Blue, Gold         
Engagements American Revolutionary War
Barbary War
American Civil War
Spanish-American War
World War I
World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Persian Gulf War
Kosovo War
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Neptune Spear
Commander, United States Fleet Forces Command Admiral Bill Gortney
Rating Badge MA.jpg
Rating insignia
Issued by: United States Navy
Type Enlisted rating
Abbreviation MA
Specialty Law Enforcement


Two Master-at-Arms conducting a security drill aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).

The Master-at-Arms rating is responsible for law enforcement and force protection in the United States Navy, the equivalent to the United States Army Military Police, the United States Marine Corps Military Police, the United States Air Force Security Forces, and the United States Coast Guard‘s Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist.[4] Master-at-Arms perform all criminal investigations, with some exceptions. In the Department of the Navy, felony criminal investigations for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps are conducted by federal civilian law enforcement agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which also performs investigations in national security, counter-intelligence, and counter-terrorism. During Drug Interdiction operations on Naval vessels, the U.S. Navy will be augmented by the U.S. Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Detachment under Title 10, United States Code (U.S.C.) § 379 to perform those law enforcement duties, because of the Posse Comitatus Act which prevents military personnel from being used to enforce state laws. This statute states that, “The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide that there be assigned on board every appropriate surface naval vessel at sea in a drug-interdiction area members of the Coast Guard who are trained in law enforcement and have powers of the Coast Guard under Title 14, including the power to make arrests and to carry out searches and seizures.”[5]

A Master-at-Arms authority is derived from many sources. Under Title 10 U.S.C., they enforce the provision of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) (10 U.S.C. § 47). Under the Assimilative Crimes Act (18 U.S.C.§ 13) it provides that local and state criminal codes may be assimilated for enforcement and criminal investigation purposes on military installations. Other sources of authority for Master-at-Arms include the Manual for Courts-Martial, United States Navy Regulations, and internal directives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Office of the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO).


According to the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS), Master-at-Arms will individually, or as part of a force, be able to conduct security operations in order to defeat Level I and Level II threats in near-coast, shore and harbor/port environments. Specifically, the Master-at-Arms will:

  • Conduct scalable force protection and security for designated assets and critical infrastructure.
  • Provide layered defense in an integrated coastal and landward security environment.
  • Provide integrated security capabilities, including mobile and fixed defensive operations in support of Commanders performing Homeland Defense and Expeditionary/Combat Operations, law enforcement, corrections, force protection, special events and operations with other services, host nation and civil authorities.[6]


The Master-at-Arms rating is by no means a modern innovation. Naval records show that these “sheriffs of the sea” were keeping order as early as the reign of Charles I of England. At that time they were charged with keeping the swords, pistols, carbines and muskets in good working order as well as ensuring that the bandoliers were filled with fresh powder before combat. Besides being chiefs of police at sea, the sea corporals, as they were called in the British Navy, they had to be qualified in close order fighting under arms and able to train seamen in hand-to-hand combat. In the days of sail, the Master-at-Arms were truly “masters at arms.”[7]

American Revolutionary War

The Navy of the United Colonies of the 1775 era offered only a few different jobs above the ordinary seaman level. These included Boatswain’s Mate, Quartermaster, Gunner’s Mate, Master-at-Arms, Cook, Armorer, Sailmaker’s Mate, Cooper, Cockswain, Carpenter’s Yeoman, and Yeoman of the Gun Room. These were titles of the jobs that individuals were actually performing and thus became the basis for Petty Officers and ratings. Also, there were Ordinary Seaman, Loblolly Boy, and Boy, but these are more related to our apprentices of today.[8]

The Master-at-Arms rating officially started out in the post-American Revolutionary War on board the ships of the United States’ early Navy. Taking on many customs and traditions of the Royal Navy, the existence of the rating did not take effect until the Naval Act of July 1, 1797 (a previous Act of March 27, 1794 authorized the same, but was allowed to expire) or known as The Congressional Act to Provide for a Naval Armament, which authorized the President of the United States to provide four ships of 44 guns and two ships of 36 guns each, to be employed on each ship various officers, marines and petty officers under the command of a commissioned officer as the captain. The congressional act stated “And be it further enacted, that there shall be employed, in each of the said ships, the following warrant officers, who shall be appointed by the President of the United States, to wit: One sailing-master, one purser, one boatswain, one gunner, one sail-maker, one carpenter, and eight midshipmen; and the following petty officers, who shall be appointed by the captains of the ships, respectively, in which they are to be employed, viz: two master’s mates, one captain’s clerk, two boatswain’s mates, one cockswain, one sail-maker’s mate, two gunner’s mates, one yeoman of the gun room, nine quarter-gunners, (and for the four larger ships two additional quarter-gunners,) two carpenter’s mates, one armourer, one steward, one cooper, one master-at-arms, and one cook.” [9] The call for a naval armament, and the change of the United States’ isolationism was in direct response to the hostile acts of the Barbary States’ pirates. Because of this Congressional Act, the MA rating is recognized as one of the “oldest” rating still existing in today’s modern U.S. Navy, which includes Boatswain’s Mate (United States Navy), Gunner’s Mate, Quartermaster, and Yeoman (United States Navy).

Master-at-Arms circa 1890s

On April 1, 1893, two important steps were taken. First, the grade of Chief Petty Officer was established; secondly, most enlisted men received a pay raise. The question is often asked, “Who was the first Chief Petty Officer?” The answer is flatly: “There was no first Chief Petty Officer due to the fact that nearly all ratings carried as Petty Officers First Class from 1885 were automatically shifted to the Chief Petty Officer level.” Exceptions were Schoolmasters, who stayed at first class; Ship’s Writers, who stayed the same but expanded to include second and third class; and Carpenter’s Mates, who had been carried as second class petty officers but were extended to include chief, first, second, and third classes. Therefore, the Chief Petty Officer grade on April 1, 1893, encompassed the nine rates:[10]

  • Seaman Branch
    • Chief Master-at-Arms
    • Chief Boatswain’s Mate
    • Chief Quartermaster
    • Chief Gunner’s Mate
  • Artificer Branch
    • Chief Machinist
    • Chief Carpenter’s Mate
  • Special Branch
    • Chief Yeoman
    • Apothecary
    • Band Master

Master-at-Arms circa 1940s

Established in 1942, the Specialists (S) Shore Patrol and Security, worked shore patrol teams and ensured basic ship and shore station security. Its name was changed in 1948 to Shore Patrolman, and it took on some of the official functions of the current Master-at-Arms rating, only to be disestablished in January 23, 1953 by the Secretary of the Navy as a result of the RSRB recommendations of June 1952. This was officially implemented by BUPERS Notice 1200 of March 5, 1953.[11][12]

Master-at-Arms circa 1970s

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Master-at-Arms rating was officially established in 1797, disestablished in 1921,[13] only to be re-established by the Chief of Naval Personnel on August 1, 1973 in BUPERSNOTE 1440 Change 1, thereby making that date “August 1st” as the official birthday of the modern U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms.[14]

Master-at-Arms circa 1980s

In 1982, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, then known as the Naval Investigative Service (NIS), assumed responsibility for managing the Navy’s Law Enforcement and Physical Security Program and the Navy’s Information and Personnel Security Program. This effectively made NCIS the Program Manager for the Master-at-Arms community, responsible for program management, manning, training, and equipping.

Modern-Day Master-at-Arms

After being reestablished on August 1, 1973, the rating would only receive Sailors who wanted to “cross-rate” (a rating conversion in the U.S. Navy) and submitted a conversion package to BUPERS after concurrence from NCIS. This conversion package was unique in that it required a letter of endorsement from rated Master-at-Arms in the community who observed the Sailor first-hand in the performance of their assigned NSF duties. Along with the pre-requisites required at the time, these Sailors must have been frocked as a Second Class Petty Officer or above. The conversion process utilized the procedures and requirements listed in Military Personnel Manual (MILPERSMAN) 1440-010.

The period between the 1980s until the 2000s saw very little changes in the rating since its formation, in terms of Tactic, Techniques and Procedures (TTP). MAs were performing law enforcement and ATFP duties, but a majority, especially assigned to ships, were still performing archaic duties of the early Navy such as berthing inspections, restricted barracks supervision, linen issue, Seabag Locker management, etc.. However, the increased terrorist threat was the catalyst that changed all of this and the way the Navy operated.

Global War on Terrorism

In 2000, the USS COLE bombing followed by the events of 9/11 led the leadership of the U.S. Navy to realize that its assets (personnel, equipment and infrastructure) were grossly under protected, due to the lack of specially-trained personnel, specifically in the Master-at-Arms rating. Terrorism was now recognized as a real threat to the Navy, which forced Navy leadership to seriously change how Master-at-Arms were viewed, utilized and task organized, leading them to initiate serious changes to force protection TTPs. This led to some of the following changes:

  • Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet designated concurrently as Commander, United States Fleet Forces Command (USFFC).
  • U.S. Fleet Force Command to serve as Executive Agent to the CNO for all matters of force protection.
  • Establishment of the Antiterrorism/Force Protection Warfare Development Center (ATFPWDC), the precursor to the current Center for Security Forces.
  • Master-at-Arms manning increase from 1,800 in the year 2000 to over 11,000 in the year 2007.

In 2003, the Navy Recruiting Command was assigned a new contract mission for Master-at-Arms entry level applicants. Recruiting efforts tremendously increased to fill the billet requirements being demanded by the various Type Commanders (TYCOM) to combat the terrorist threats within their Area of Responsibility (AOR). This demand increased sharply when the CNO authorized the formation of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), which serves as the single functional command for the Navy’s expeditionary forces and as central management for the readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of those forces.[15]

In 2006 after the creation of NECC, formal transition of the Master-at-Arms Community shifted from NCIS to NECC at the height of the Global War on Terrorism. The increased need for specialized units such as Maritime Expeditionary Security Force (MESF) and United States Navy Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) units and the manning of several forward deployed locations such as Bahrain saw the need to increase the number of MAs. It was also during this period, for the first and only time, that Master-at-Arms were considered a source rating for U.S. Navy SEAL and were allowed to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

Then again in 2011, this changed with U.S. Fleet Forces Command assuming responsibility as the Master-at-Arms Community Sponsor. This shift is indicative of the “drawdown” the entire U.S. military was seeing from its departure from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This move marks the change from combat and combat support roles that MAs participated in the various expeditionary and SOF units, and back to more traditional law enforcement roles with U.S. Fleet Forces Command as the community’s functional commander. This move still exasperates the existing issue that has plagued the community from its beginning. The issue of the Naval Security Force not having a single chain of command, or Type Commander, similar to how the U.S. Army, and U.S. Marine Corps Military Police Corps, or U.S. Air Force Security Forces are task organized. In each of the other services, the entire Military Police Corps are under the direction and control of their respective Military Police Provost Marshal General.

Master-at-Arms circa 2014

A proposal from within the community has been forwarded up to the CNO, suggesting changes to how the Master-at-Arms rating and Naval Security Force personnel are organized, trained and utilized. Effective immediately, Commander, NECC has been designated as the TYCOM for all NSF.[citation needed] Some of the other proposed suggestions were:

  • NECC as the NSF TYCOM with a Flag Officer billet as the Immediate Superior in Command (ISIC).
  • NSF Personnel organized in the following:
    • NSF TYCOM – (NECC; Navy Lead on all NSF and Security Matters; Manages NSF Program).
    • NSF Battalion (Coordinates with Regions and supports NSF Companies).
    • NSF Company (TACON to the various installations with mission-specific NSF Platoons).
    • NSF Platoon (TACON to the NSF Company; Mission specific – Waterside, Landside, LE, MWD, etc.).
  • Command Master-at-Arms (CMAA) NEC.
  • Harbor Patrol Unit (HPU) Training Supervisor NEC.
  • NSF Certification at regular intervals similar to afloat unit level certifications prior to deployment.

Master-at-Arms in Today’s U.S. Navy

Master-at-Arms’ Creed

I am a Master-at-Arms. I hold allegiance to my country, devotion to duty, and personal integrity above all. I wear my shield of authority with dignity and restraint, and promote by example high standards of conduct, appearance, courtesy and performance. I seek no favor because of my position. I perform my duties in a firm, courteous, and impartial manner. I strive to merit the respect of my shipmates and all with whom I come in contact.


U.S. Navy’s current law enforcement metal badge

U.S. Navy’s current law enforcement patch for the NWU

According to early records, the U.S. Navy took its time about identifying ratings by the symbols so familiar on today’s naval uniforms. The Master-at-Arms, or Police Officer of the ship, wore the white five-pointed star of authority.[16] Prior to the 1980s, they were only distinguished from other Sailors wearing the dungaree uniform, by wearing a brassard on their arm with the letters “MAA”. Eventually, commands locally purchased and issued metal badges to MAs, similar to civilian law enforcement agencies. This, however, caused for badge inconsistencies throughout the Navy in terms of the size, color and description, when compared to the uniformity of the other services’ Military Police force. The period between the 1980s and 2010 saw the use of the woodland and desert camouflage utility uniform (CUU) by Master-at-Arms throughout the Navy, with metal or cloth badges worn on the left breast pocket of the uniform, centered in the middle of the left pocket for men and 1/4 inch above the U.S. Navy tape (or warfare device) for women. The CUU for the Navy was the exact same uniform worn by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army known as the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU).

Today Master-at-Arms wear the same uniform worn throughout the fleet, the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I, with a “universal” metal or cloth badge affixed to right side of the uniform, 1/4 inch above the name tape of the Sailor, with no difference in position for gender. MAs serving in a specific operational units may also be authorized to wear the NWU Type II (digital desert pattern) or the NWU Type III (digital woodland pattern). In these situations, the TYCOM, Combatant Commander, or unit Commander for those units may issue specific orders to deviate from U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations.[17]

Duties and Functions

U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms performing a traffic enforcement of the installation’s speed limit.

The duties of a Master-at-Arms varies from command to command. Most will primarily perform law enforcement and force protection duties, however, other types of duties are open to the rating depending on the command that they are assigned to. This can be in areas such as expeditionary warfare, special operations support, independent duty, GWOT individual augmentee, Protective Service Detail assigned to a high ranking official, or corrections. Master-at-Arms may also serve outside of the rating, when approved by the Community Manager, such as in Recruiting, Recruit Training, U.S. Embassy Duty, assignment to NCIS or Afloat Training Group (ATG) as a trainer and evaluator, or to a Flag or General officer’s Staff.

As the primary law enforcement organization on a Naval installation, Master-at-Arms may perform their duties operating a patrol vehicle or RHIB; standing watch (or Post) at a gate, pier or flight line as a Fixed or Roving Sentry; conducting traffic enforcement; conducting interviews or interrogations; collecting evidence or securing a crime scene. Like any other law enforcement agency, there are also administrative duties performed by Master-at-Arms such as personnel management, training, inspections, records keeping, etc..

Personnel in the Master-at-Arms rating can also expect to see duties onboard a variety of naval warships such as an aircraft carriers’ Security Force Department; on a cruiser, destroyer, or aviation squadron as an Independent Duty Master-at-Arms; on board a Naval shore or aviation installation in the United States or in overseas locations such as Bahrain and Diego Garcia, assigned to the Security Force or Police Departments; forward deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa on a GWOT IA assignment; or assigned to an expeditionary or naval special warfare unit. When assigned to these different types of units, Master-at-Arms are expected to achieve the same qualifications and watchstations, as the rest of the Sailors assigned to that unit. This may include Damage Control, Maintenance and Material Management (3M), Officer of the Deck (OOD) or Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW), Small Boat Coxswain, etc.. Overall, these specific qualifications are required of all Sailors to complete their unit specific warfare qualifications, i.e., Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare Specialist, etc..

Naval Security Force Sailors assigned to Bike Patrol duties.

In 2012, the Sea-Shore Flow (SSF), or amount of time an MA is expected to be assigned to a specific deployable or non-deployable unit, has been set to 36 months CONUS/36 months OCONUS across the entire rank structure.[18]

Whatever unit they may be assigned to, MAs are expected to perform their duties independently, and to advise their Commander on matters pertaining to law enforcement or force protection.

Organizational Structure

In a naval unit task organized with a Naval Security Force Department or Detachment, Master-at-Arms report to the Commanding Officer (CO) of the command, and are led by a Security Officer (SECO), in maintaining good order and discipline, enforcing rules and regulations, and protecting life and property.[19] SECOs are commissioned Naval officers in the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) or Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) community with the Security occupational designators 649X and 749X. They may also be led by a United States Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employee who possess the necessary skills, training and/or experience to perform those duties.[20]

  • Simplified NSF Task Organization
NSF Position Rank
Security Officer Commissioned Officer/DoD Civilian
Deputy/Assistant Security Officer MACS-MACM/DoD Civilian/Commissioned Officer
NSF Leading Chief Petty Officer MAC-MACM
Operations (Patrol/Harbor/MWD/ASF/Guards/Dispatch) MAC-MACS/DoD Civilian Police Supervisor
Antiterrorism MAC-MACS/DoD Physical Security Specialist
Training MA1-MAC
Criminal Investigations MA1-MAC
Administrative MA1-MAC
Supply MA1-MAC/Civilian Logistics Supervisor
Pass and ID MA1/Civilian Admin Supervisor

Collectively, all personnel responsible for law enforcement and force protection for the U.S. Navy are designated as Naval Security Force (NSF). This includes Sailors in the Master-at-Arms rating, commissioned officers in the LDO and CWO field, DoD Police Officers, contracted Guards, and/or Sailors who have completed the required Security Force training. These “non-rated” Sailors are trained by Master-at-Arms with the Antiterrorism Training Supervisor skill set (NEC 9501) or by Sailors assigned as instructors to the Center for Security Forces Learning Sites. Some of the course curriculums required to be completed in order to perform NSF duties include Security Reaction Force – Basic (SRF-B) and Security Reaction Force – Advance (SRF-A). Non-rated Sailors assigned to perform these duties will be designated as Auxiliary Security Force (ASF) for shore installations, or Inport Security Force (ISF) for Naval vessels.

Civilian and Military Law Enforcement Cooperation

Because of the dynamic environment of society, limited resources and funding, technology, and the terrorist threat, it has become increasingly important for military and civilian law enforcement agencies to work cooperatively to protect the safety of our nation and citizens. The 9/11 Commission Report stated that despite our large and complex law enforcement community, there were very little effort in counter-terrorism or in intelligence sharing. Prior to the terrorist attack, many federal and civilian law enforcement agencies were operating independently and many shared the same mentality of keeping intelligence secretive from other communities, making our nation vulnerable.

In a February 2004 article in the Police Chief Magazine, writers John Awtrey and Jeffery Porter wrote of such interagency cooperation and how each agency can make it happen if it does not exist in their community. Awtrey and Porter wrote “Working together can help civilian and military police agencies make the most of available resources and provide the expected level of services to their communities.”[21] One example of the civilian and military cooperation in terms of law enforcement is in the National Capital Region (NCR). Markfelder wrote “The NCR serves as the seat of the U.S. government and is home to most senior civilian and military leaders and historic national icons. It is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States; home to more than 5 million residents and 20 million tourists annually. It has the second largest public transit system, more than 2,000 non-profits and international non-government organizations, produces a Gross Regional Product of $228 billion annually, and home to more than 230 individual Federal departments and agencies representing all three branches of government.” In that region, military law enforcement agencies from Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (JFQH-NCR/MDW) and local civilian law enforcement agencies from Washington D.C. metro area were recognized by the 2011 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Markfelder wrote “That award recognizes excellence in law enforcement cooperation between civilian and military law enforcement agencies for innovative joint efforts that lead to improvement in public safety for both military and civilian communities. MDW PMO was presented their award Oct. 23 at the IACP’s 118th Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois.”[22]

Demographics of Master-at-Arms (Ownership)

As of 2011, this snapshot outlines the assignment of Master-at-Arms to the various Type Commanders (TYCOM) in the U.S. Navy.[23]

Community Sponsorship of Master-at-Arms (Stakeholders)

As of 2011, this is the current Master-at-Arms community sponsorship in the U.S. Navy.[24]

  • USFFC – Community Sponsor; standardize and coordinate training and equipment with stakeholders; MWD Program; and manning, training and equipping of MA Force.
  • CNIC – Budget for installations; responsible for manning, training, and equipping NSF/MA Forces in AOR.
  • BUPERS – Community management; community manning/health for all rates; advancement quotas; and accession and conversion.
  • NETC – Individual skills training (A, C, D and F schools); MA OCCSTDS/competencies; enlisted career roadmap; MA rate training manual (RTM); professional certifications and apprenticeships.
  • NCIS – Military Police Investigator (MPI) and Protective Services (PS) authority and responsibility; technical sponsor for MPI and PS.

Standard Issued Weapons

Because of the multi-faceted duties of a Master-at-Arms, it is not uncommon for an MA to qualify in various small-arms and large caliber weapons throughout their career. Typically, a rated MA will at a minimum maintain qualifications in the following weapons to perform their basic law enforcement duties:

Minimum Qualifications to be a Master-at-Arms

Below are the minimum requirements or standards, that an individual must be able to possess at application or conversion, and be able to maintain throughout their career as an MA. There would be no moral turpitude waivers granted for alcohol, drugs, indebtedness, or other circumstances, that would result in non-screening for the Personal Reliability Program (PRP), Security Clearance granting or overseas assignment.[25]

  • ASVAB test scores of Word Knowledge (WK) + Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) = 95 (with a minimum of 43 in WK).
  • Must be a United States citizen and able to obtain a SECRET Security Clearance.
  • No Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP), convictions (civilian or military) with the three years preceding application for MA.
  • No Domestic Violence convictions (non-waiverable).
  • Must hold a valid and current state driver’s license.
  • Excellent command of the English language, verbal and written with no speech impediments.
  • Tested negative on a drug-screening test within the previous 30 days, and with no history of drug use for three years prior to application.
  • No history of mental impairment or disorder, emotional instability, alcoholism, drug abuse, or any physical condition that impairs the performance of law enforcement and security duties.
  • Must have normal color perception, vision correctable to 20/20, and have normal hearing.
  • Must be in good physical condition capable of sustained exertion and meet Body Mass Index (BMI) of the U.S. Navy Physical Readiness Program.
  • Must be world-wide assignable.

Master-at-Arms Career Path

A Master-at-Arms taking the Second Class Petty Officer Navy Wide Advancement Exam.

Career Milestone Years of Service Average Time to Promote
MACM 26-30 22.1
MACS 23-26 19.9
MAC 20-23 14.4
MA1 16-20 10.6
MA2 8-12 4.8
MA3 4-8 2.8
MASN 1-4 1.2
MASA 1 +/- 9 Months
MASR 1 +/- Accession Training

Training and Education

Center for Security Forces

Center for Security Forces Command Logo

On October 2001, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) designated the Commander in chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT) as concurrent Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. This action was prompted by the recent terrorists’ attacks against the U.S. and the increased awareness among military official that the Navy’s force protection posture was in need of revision. Known today as U.S. Fleet Forces Command, its mission is to serve as the executive agent regarding all aspects of force protection for the fleet.[26]

In November 2001, U.S. Fleet Forces Command established the Antiterrorism/Force Protection Warfare Development Center (ATFPWDC) in response to the rapid increase of fleet training needs in the realm of force protection. Known today as Center for Security Forces, its mission is to serve as the training authority for all aspects of force protection for the Navy.

Today, the Center for Security Forces provides specific training, sustainment and serves as the Subject Matter Expert (SME) in the area of Navy law enforcement, force protection, physical security, small arms weapons training, expeditionary warfare, code of conduct, and the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) in those respective areas. Its mission is to develop and deliver force protection and NSF training to achieve war fighting superiority.

Master-at-Arms “A” School

Master-at-Arms “A” school is located at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas. MAs receive formal and specialized training managed by the staff and personnel assigned to the Center for Security Forces (CENSECFOR). Sailors graduating from “A” School will have the basic knowledge in performing law enforcement duties and will be qualified to operate the M9 pistol, M4/M16 rifle, M500 shotgun, expandable baton, Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) pepper spray, various restraining devices, and operating a patrol vehicle.[27] MAs graduating from “A” School will also possess basic knowledge in interview and interrogation techniques, report writing, use of force and rules of engagement doctrine, and military law.

Master-at-Arms “C” Schools

A U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms MWD Handler assigned to Naval Air Station Key West

A Chief Master-at-Arms conducting RHIB training.

Master-at-Arms perform a variety of duties that require specialize training, or “C” Schools, that are completed immediately after “A” School and throughout their career. Upon completion of the applicable “C” School(s), a Master-at-Arms receives a Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) Code which is entered into their Electronic Training Jacket (ETJ). NECs are sometimes used in the detailing process for an enlisted Sailor when selecting orders to a new command.

  • MA-Specific Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) Codes Awarded
    • Small Arms Instructor (SAMI) – NEC 0812
    • Crew-Served Weapons Instructor – NEC 0814
    • Force Protection Boat Coxswain – NEC 0190
    • Military Police Investigator (MPI) – NEC 2002
    • Military Working Dog (MWD) Handler – NEC 2005
    • Military Working Dog (MWD) Kennel Supervisor – NEC 2006
    • Corrections Specialist – NEC 2008
    • Protective Service Specialist – NEC 2009
    • Antiterrorism Training Supervisor (AT TRASUP) – NEC 9501
    • Instructor – NEC 9502
    • U.S. Customs Inspector – Non NEC Certification
  • Individual Augmentee (IA) NEC Codes Awarded
    • 90CA – GWOT Support Assignment – Civil Affairs/Provincial Reconstruction Team
    • 90DO – GWOT IA/ILO Detainee Operations
    • 90DS – GWOT IA/ILO Confinement Operations
    • 90ET – GWOT IA/ILO Embedded Military Mobile Training Team
    • 90IE – GWOT IA/ILO Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Suppression Team Member
    • 90IT – Individual GWOT IA/ILO Detainee Operations Interrogator
    • 90MN – GWOT IA/ILO Multi-National Force
    • 90SI – Individual GWOT IA/ILO Signal Intelligence Gathering
    • 90SP – Individual Special Operations Support Team
    • 90UV – GWOT Support Assignment – Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Operator


Various successful attempts to professionalize the MA rating have resulted in numerous credentialing offered by various accredited organizations and institutions. This in combination with rank, experience and training, along with specific requirements of the credentialing agency, may allow MAs to receive certifications. The U.S. Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) defines this as “A continuously developing product for both active and reserve Navy service members that defines civilian credentials which best map to a Navy rating, job, designator, and collateral duties.” [28] Just a few of the credentialing offered by various organizations in cooperation with the U.S. Navy COOL office include:

  • American Board for the Certification in Homeland Security (ABCHS):[29]
    • CHS Levels I-V
    • Certified in Disaster Preparedness (CDP-I)
    • Anti-Sabotage Certified (ASC)
  • Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB):[30]
    • Certified Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CAS)
    • Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CMAS)

U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) Apprenticeships

Additionally, the U.S. Navy in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor have provided opportunities for MAs to complete certificates of completion in various apprenticeships. Such endeavor as stated in the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) website states, “The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) is a formal military training program that provides active duty Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy service members the opportunity to improve their job skills and to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while they are on active duty. The U.S. Department of Labor provides the nationally recognized “Certificate of Completion” upon program completion.” [31] Apprenticeships offered by USMAP in cooperation with the U.S. Navy include:

  • Police Officer I (Government Service)
  • Correction Officer (Government Service)
  • Security Specialist
  • Master Homeland Security Specialist
  • Computer-Peripheral-Equipment Operator (Clerical)
  • Office Manager/Administrative Services
  • Protective Service Specialist

Community Health and Sustainment

There have been many efforts initiated or implemented, that reflect the much needed changes to the training, equipping, sustainment and professionalism of the Master-at-Arms rating and the Naval Security Force community. Some of those proposed or implemented changes are:

  • A Standardized Naval Security Force (NSF) Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS).
  • A Force Protection Small Boat Coxswain NEC.
  • A Standardized Naval Security Force Badge.
  • Proposal to develop an MA Training Continuum.
  • Proposal to expand/improve the current MA “A” School curriculum, increasing the course length from six to 11 weeks.
  • Proposal to create a Senior MA Management Training curriculum.
  • Proposal to create a Security Officer Training Continuum.
  • Proposal to develop a NSF Body Armor Standard.
  • Proposal to develop an NSF Table of Allowance (TOA) to standardize and reduce equipment training time.

Naval Officer Commissioning Opportunities

Master-at-Arms who met certain pre-requisites, training, experience and time in service and paygrade may also seek an advanced career path as a Naval officer. The opportunities for increased Naval service as a commissioned officer exist in any field, or community, that the particular Sailor is qualified to serve. Although most MAs seek a continued career in their current field as an MA through the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) and Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) commissioning programs.[32] Those who choose the Security designator career path will perform various duties in the billet that they are assigned to, but most will serve primarily as the SECOs of major Naval installation, ships and various operational units.

According to the BUPERS LDO/CWO website, “Security Officers are technical managers in matters of law enforcement, physical security, and corrections. They plan, organize, and supervise physical security programs aboard ships and activities; establish and maintain access/egress systems providing for detection/prevention of sabotage and theft; plan and direct law enforcement programs to include aggressive contraband control initiatives; and supervise operation of brigs afloat. They may serve as, but are not limited to serving as, Security Officers at sea, ashore, or on staffs.”[33] [34]

College Credits

The American Council on Education recommends that semester hour credits be awarded in the vocational certificate and lower-division bachelor/associate degree categories for courses taken in this rating on criminal investigation, criminal law, report writing, human relations/applied psychology, correctional procedures and instructor training techniques.[35]


Notable Masters-at-Arms

Medal of Honor Recipients

MA2(SEAL) Michael Monsoor while assigned to SEAL Team 3 during OEF

MA2 Mark Mayo assigned to Naval Station Norfolk Base Police

MA1 John Douangdara and his partner Bart while on deployment.

Navy Cross Recipient

  • Chief Master-at-Arms William A. Kane, World War I, USS WICO, 23 June 1917[43]

Silver Star Recipients

Navy and Marine Corps Medal Recipients

  • Chief Master-at-Arms Alan R. Baltazar, USS SELLERS (DDG-11), 10 September 1964[46]
  • MA2 Mark Mayo, Naval Station Norfolk, VA, 27 March 2014 [47][48]

Bronze Star with Valor Recipients

Career Milestone Achievements

  • Captain Tito Arendela, USN – First rated Master-at-Arms to achieve the rank of Captain (United States O-6) within the LDO Security community field.
  • Commander Gordon “Gordo” Sheek, Sr., USN (1956-2014) – First rated Master-at-Arms to achieve the rank of Commander within the LDO Security community field. In 1998, while leading Naval Security Force Bahrain, it was the first unit in the Navy to be recognized by the Department of Defense as the “World’s Best Antiterrorism/Force Protection Program.”

Master-at-Arms Depicted in Film