The civilian warrior has had a place in the U.S. military since the days of John Paul Jones. But that place has not always been easily understood, or accepted.
During the Peloponnesian War from 431 to 404 BC, Greek historian Xenophon wrote a thought-provoking assessment of the citizen sailors of the Athenian Navy: “It is the ordinary people who man the fleet . . . . they provide the helmsmen, the boatswains, the junior officers, the look-outs and the shipwrights; it is these people who make the city powerful.”
Nearly two millennia later, the idea of the citizen sailor at sea played an important role in the embryonic United States. Among the American colonials who took up arms in 1775 was a merchant sea captain with a questionable background: John Paul Jones joined the nascent Continental Navy—a “force” that began with seven converted merchant ships that were pitted against the most powerful navy in the world—and rapidly rose to command, taking his adopted country’s undersized navy to the very shores of the enemy in November 1778.