Support: U.S. Navy Military Police


September 9, 2006: The U.S. Navy is having a hard time convincing enough sailors that there is a future in port security. In response to the suicide boat attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and the war on terror after September 11, 2001, the U.S. Navy decided it needed better port security, and decided to greatly expand its "Masters at Arms" (MAAs) force. Before the Cole got hit, the navy had about 1,800 MAAs, and they were deployed in small numbers, generally as security experts. Often, the MAAs simply supervised non-MAA sailors to undertake security jobs. The new MAA force would contain 11,000 MAAs, many operating in MAA staffed units, and would be in place by 2009.

So far, the navy has expanded the MAA force to nearly 10,000. But this year, it has had trouble getting the last two thousand volunteers. Most of the MAAs are being obtained by getting sailors to switch from their current jobs, to MAA work. Even though the navy is laying off thousands of sailors, many of those facing downsizing, prefer to get out, rather than switch to the MAA force. That may have something to do with the kind of work MAAs do these days.

For example, to address situations like the attack on the USS Cole, the navy has formed mobile security force detachments. Each has 75 sailors, three 25 foot boats and lots of assault rifles, machine-guns, shotguns and grenade launchers. There are eight of these detachments so far, and they serve in ports the navy feels are in need of a little extra security. Most (70 percent) of the sailors in the detachments are MAAs. What the navy is doing here is forming a "Military Police" force. This was something the navy never had previously. For a long time, marines were used for many security tasks. But the marines have been withdrawn from those duties over the last two decades. So now the navy needs more security, and is doing it itself.