State Dept opens massive security training center, simulated city with floods, protests, other disasters

(Photo by Shaun TANDON / AFP) (Photo by SHAUN TANDON/AFP via Getty Images)

The newly-opened Foreign Affairs Security Training Center in Blackstone, Va., is a massive 1,350-acre compound that was approved by Congress.

The facility was built to provide comprehensive lifesaving security training to State Department personnel and members of the foreign affairs community, according to Fox News.

Michael Evanoff, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, told the network the center will help teach U.S. personnel how to respond in the event of an attack.

“Training is the bedrock to protecting lives,” Evanoff said. “If you are a trained foreign service officer and you go through the training we give you, you’ll be better prepared to react.”

Fully operational in December, the FASTC training campus features a rappel tower, a tactical maze, two smokehouses, an explosive demo range and live-fire shoot house.

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The facility also features two high-speed driving tracks and another that can be flooded with 96,000 gallons of water to give agents hands-on training to mastering rough road conditions. They are taught how to drive an armored SUV through a controlled skid as well as how to speed away from an ambush in reverse, ram vehicles out of the way and drive through just about every surface imaginable, including sand, mud, clay, gravel, over big rocks, over little rocks, up asphalt hills, down stairs and over logs. They are also taught how to detect surveillance, provide emergency medical care and root out improvised explosive devices.

But perhaps most impressive is the military operations in urban terrain simulator, also known as MOUT. Based on blueprints from existing embassies, FASTC created an entire town on its campus to put agents through rigorous training on how to respond to everything from a post-election protest in a foreign country to a security threat on the chaotic streets of New York City. Paid actors play townspeople, protestors, journalists and merchants to add to the drill’s “real feel.”

 

Wendy Bashnan, deputy assistant secretary for training, said government employees must be ready for anything and the FASTC training they receive accomplishes that.

“The world is becoming more unstable,” she said, “with increasing terrorist attacks worldwide, growing instability in government and rising discontent in economically disadvantaged countries.”

In the face of numerous attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates over the years, the facility will train 2,000 special agents to protect U.S. diplomats and citizens around the world. Overall, 10,000 people are expected to be trained annually.

(Photo by SHAUN TANDON/AFP via Getty Images)

Fox News noted that during former President George W. Bush’s two terms, there were 20 fatal attacks on U.S.embassies that resulted in 87 deaths, with 24 being either U.S. embassy workers or U.S. civilians.

And there was the tragic Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Four Americans died that fateful day, to include Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith and CIA security contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Now, if only the State Department can build a facility to teach politicians to put the lives of U.S. personnel before political aspirations and election chances.

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Tom Tillison

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