Professionalism At ArmsSteven Lieberman
Professional”ism” at Arms
If you have taken any classes with me, or listened to my missives, you may have heard me refer to the concept of Master-at-Skill-at-Arms.
A number of people have commented on this term and the vaguely archaic nature of the way it sounds. Master-of-Skill-at-Arms is indeed an old concept, predating the invention of gunpowder itself. It presupposes a level of sophistication and mastery that excels beyond common usage.
During a more “romantic” time, many people bore arms for self-protection… very few of them were so accomplished that they could be referred to as “masters” of their weapons. Those who were had a natural deterrent effect, as their reputations as swordsmen preceded them.
As we have progressed in our understanding of arms and our own bodies from a physiological and psychological perspective, we now realize that simply possessing or having access to arms for self-defense is simply not enough.
I have quipped before that, “You are not going to survive a gunfight because your gun is more expensive than the other guy’s; you are going to survive a gunfight by employing superior tactics.” While this should seem fairly self-evident, it comes with a predicate. In order to be able to focus on the development of tactics, you must have reached a level of competency with your weapon that conscious manipulation ceases to be a concern. As some would describe it, you, as a Master-of-Skill-At-Arms, have reached unconscious competency; it “happens” without your thinking about it.
This is, of course, all well and good. We can produce a nation of patriots that bears arms and are highly proficient in the manipulation of those arms… but there is a secondary component that requires as much, if not more, dedicated work: Professionalism-at-Arms.
When a soldier, sailor, or airman takes the oath of enlistment or commissioning they enter into the “Honorable Profession-of-Arms”.
This is a European ideal that our country adopted at our founding. Those who bear arms in defense of their country are essentially sanctioned by law to be warriors. It is entirely possible that they may be called upon to do battle against groups or individuals who do not have such a license, as we saw early in our nation’s history when we did battle against the Barbary Pirates… non nation-state criminals, who required our military to suppress.
Those who do not enjoy such sanctioning by their governments, who seek to do harm to others, may very well be Masters-of-Skill-at-Arms… they may very well be in the “Profession-at-Arms” (in the sense that you use weapons in order to secure a personal profit), but they are not in the “Noble” Profession-at-Arms.
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The morning of this writing I had to get gas at my local gas station on my way into Artemis. For reasons I have never been fully able to comprehend, my credit card would not read at the pump and I was instructed to “see the cashier”.
I donned my 5.11 mask and entered the Chevron station. The counter had two cash registers with the now ubiquitous plastic barrier protecting the store clerks from the dreaded pathogens we all potentially carry. A woman was ringing up a 30-something-year-old patron at one of the registers and I waited on my “dot” for them to finish.
While they were negotiating what appeared to be a fairly complicated transaction for iced tea and Hostess doughnuts, another cashier opened the other register and waived me to approach. I dutifully came forward and provided her my credit card and asked for $50 to be placed on pump number seven.
During this transaction I could see the other patron looking over at me in my peripheral vision. I assumed he was merely impressed with my outstanding fashion sense.
After she was finished with me, I exited the store and went to my pump.
After I was done putting the fuel pump back in its cradle, I noticed the door to the store fly open and the original customer was making a beeline towards me.
I stood there and watched him approach. He clearly was agitated. Standing about 15 feet from me, he tore off his mask and yelled at me.
“Are you that busy?”
“Are you that busy that you had to stand next to me?”
“I wasn’t standing next to you; I was summoned by the clerk.”
“You stood next to me, bitch! Are you that busy?!?”
I stared at him for about 15 long seconds. During that time I could see him becoming more agitated.
“Yes… Yes, I am that busy, dear. You take care.”
With that I made a movement toward getting into my truck. (I had no intention of actually entering my truck not knowing if he was armed, but I wanted him to know that this conversation was now over.)
With melodramatic flare, he turned around and marched towards a truck parked in the parking space in front of the store. Knowing that he was leaving, I got into my truck and began to drive out.
As I was leaving I watched him peel out of the space at a high rate of speed and back up directly into a crash post.
I casually drove away.
I tell this story as a means of defining Professionalism-at-Arms. I was carrying my gun (as I always do). Had I let this altercation escalate, there could have been a life-altering event for both of us.
Instead, maintaining my calm and dignity, I let him know that further interaction with me was unwarranted, and my coolness suggested a level of confidence he was not willing to test. His backing up into a crash post was just icing on the cake.
Anyone can learn to manipulate a firearm… We who bear arms must endeavor to develop a more nuanced and sophisticated skill set: professionalism.