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A class of 16 students showed up Jan. 28 to begin training for the Auxiliary Security Force (ASF) at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB).

The three-week class is led by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Michael Gamba, the leading petty officer for training at NSAB Security Department. The group is a mixture of Army and Navy volunteers from tenant commands here at NSAB. ASF academy takes place about once a quarter. The average class size is about 13.

According to Gamba, students are taught multiple facets of antiterrorism and law enforcement practices. “Within that, they get exposure to non-lethal weapons, firearms - everything from rules, regulations, tactics, use of force, jurisdiction,” he said. “It almost takes a Master-at-Arms ‘A’ school and compresses it down to three weeks, so that they really get a lot of exposure to a lot of areas.”

Army Cpl. Karin Dowden normally works at AFRRI (Armed Forces Radiology Research Institute). She admitted she likes the training partly because it gets her out of the lab. “It’s basic military training again and it’s different than my everyday routine. It’s fun.” 

Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Shanta Handy, a Sailor attached to NSAB, shared the reason she volunteered, even though she’s had similar training already at a previous command. “It’s learning another side of what we do in the military. At my last command, they did stuff like this and we did more tactical. Anybody can be called out to be security,” she pointed out. “I like the engagement, the fighting, the combat and the moves, stuff like that.”

The current ASF roster at NSAB includes a few dozen volunteers. They are only called upon during times of heightened security, but are required to stand one watch a month to maintain their status. This allows them to continue their primary jobs.

Gamba described ASF as a flexible program tailored to the needs of each location where it exists. “Some installations utilize their ASF on a more permanent basis,” he continued, “so if they become part of the ASF team - going through the academy - they may get temporarily assigned to security for six months, or sometimes a year, depending on how long they set it up to be.”

Anyone who wants to join and go through the training should meet some minimum requirements, explained Gamba. “They should have a clean record, with no UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) actions, and be physically fit,” he said.