BLACKSTONE, Va. — It was the sound of fast gunfire that punctured the air first. Then got here the offended mob of protestors, their footsteps and chants rising louder and getting nearer.
Subsequent have been the screams, the sirens and the smoke. A dire warning of an imminent assault blared over the speaker system and folks got here speeding out of buildings and working towards a protected home close to the U.S. embassy. However inside, issues have been about to get a lot harder.
Right away, the ability was lower and the constructing went black. It began filling up with a lot smoke that the folks huddled inside have been compelled out. One after the other, they fell to the ground, grabbed a maintain of the pant leg of the individual in entrance of them and crawled their manner out. They ran to a second constructing however there have been casualties there – bloody blown-off physique components have been on the ground and folks with various levels of harm have been on stretchers. They labored collectively in small teams to assist their wounded colleagues earlier than working to a black helicopter ready to take them to security.
All the train appeared, sounded and felt like hell.
That was the purpose.
This specific practicum was the end result of a 5-day course on the new Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Blackstone, Va. The huge 1,350-acre compound was permitted by Congress and constructed to supply complete lifesaving safety coaching to Division of State personnel and members of the overseas affairs group. Their spouses and kids over the age of 18 are additionally allowed to attend.
“Coaching is the bedrock to defending lives,” Michael Evanoff, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic safety, informed Fox Information. “If you’re a educated overseas service officer and also you undergo the coaching we provide you with, you may be higher ready to react.”
Constructed in three phases and totally operational in December, the FASTC exhausting expertise coaching campus features a rappel tower, a tactical maze, two smokehouses, an explosive demo vary in addition to a live-fire shoot home.
The ability additionally options two high-speed driving tracks and one other that may be flooded with 96,000 gallons of water to present brokers hands-on coaching to mastering tough street circumstances. They’re taught tips on how to drive an armored SUV by way of a managed skid in addition to tips on how to pace away from an ambush in reverse, ram automobiles out of the best way and drive by way of nearly each floor possible, together with sand, mud, clay, gravel, over large rocks, over little rocks, up asphalt hills, down stairs and over logs. They’re additionally taught tips on how to detect surveillance, present emergency medical care and root out improvised explosive units.
However maybe most spectacular is the navy operations in city terrain simulator, often known as MOUT. Based mostly on blueprints from current embassies, FASTC created a whole city on its campus to place brokers by way of rigorous coaching on how to reply to every part from a post-election protest out of the country to a safety menace on the chaotic streets of New York Metropolis. Paid actors play townspeople, protestors, journalists and retailers so as to add to the drill’s “actual really feel.”
“The world is turning into extra unstable, with rising terrorist assaults worldwide, rising instability in authorities and rising discontent in economically deprived international locations,” mentioned Wendy Bashnan, deputy assistant secretary for coaching, including that staff should be prepared for something and that FASTC coaching will get them there.
One senior officer, whose identify has been withheld on the request of the State Division, informed Fox that together with the exhausting expertise coaching, college students go away the course extra assured of their capacity to get out of an emergency scenario safely.
“I do not care when you’re in Luxembourg or Lahore, there’s going to be a disaster and this prepares you for that,” he mentioned.
FASTC — which is able to put together 2,000 particular brokers to guard U.S. diplomats and residents around the globe and is anticipated to coach one other 10,000 folks yearly — was constructed out of necessity.
There have been too many assaults on too many U.S. embassies and consulates that left staff, brokers and officers scrambling for his or her lives.
Within the mid-1990s, the State Division started pushing for a extra environment friendly, consolidated coaching facility for diplomatic safety service brokers. Previous to that, exhausting expertise coaching was unfold out in 11 totally different websites throughout the nation, which resulted in disjointed coaching workouts in addition to pricey journey bills and a dependency on contract services.
“New threats are consistently altering… We really feel that we won’t be stagnant. We have now to be forward of the curve.”
The essential want for a brand new, state-of-the-art facility was underscored by almost-simultaneous assaults on Aug. 7, 1998 on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, in addition to in Dar es Salaam, the capital of neighboring Tanzania. In all, 224 folks died and one other 5,000 have been wounded. Amongst these killed in Kenya have been 12 U.S. residents.
Throughout President George W. Bush’s administration between 2001-2009, there have been 20 deadly assaults on U.S.embassies that resulted in 87 deaths — 24 of them have been both U.S. embassy staff or U.S. civilians.
Then got here the Sept. 11, 2012 assaults in Benghazi, Libya.
In that incident, a U.S. authorities compound in Benghazi was ambushed in a coordinated assault by the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia. In the long run, 4 Individuals had been killed: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. Overseas Service Data Administration Officer Sean Smith and CIA safety contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. Benghazi was amongst one of many worst tragedies and one of many hardest classes the State Division has needed to study.
In actual fact, FASTC’s “Hearth as a Weapon” course is the direct results of Benghazi and teaches diplomatic workers how to reply to assaults on their compounds involving incendiary weapons and fires which can be intentionally set.
“When a facility is attacked, they set fireplace to the ability,” Evanoff informed Fox. “We have to learn to get out of it.”
Evanoff additionally mentioned the State Division has spent loads of time understanding the science of compounds which have come below assault and mentioned safety procedures and coaching are at all times evolving. That is why the brand new coaching facility in Blackstone is significant for America’s overseas service staff.
“New threats are consistently altering and we’re consistently wanting on the menace matrix,” he mentioned. “We really feel that we won’t be stagnant. We have now to be forward of the curve.”