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Posted: December 8, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Agents train to keep us safe

Two things that keep me awake at night: The threat of terrorism and wondering what, if anything, our federal government is doing about it.

Evidently, my recent talk with Atlanta television anchor Justin Farmer in Atlanta about his reports of Mexican drug lords funneling illegal immigrants, drugs and terrorists into our country has a lot of you feeling the same way.

So when I got an opportunity to visit the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick recently with my friend, Chuck Jones, a retired DeKalb County police lieutenant, who lives on Saint Simons Island, I jumped at it. For Chuck, it was a busman’s holiday; for me, it was an eye-opener.

First, a few factoids: The Glynn County location is the headquarters facility for FLETC and one of several in the United States as well as Asia and Africa. Located on 1,600 acres with some 1,500 staff members, the place generally has some 3,500 agents from 88 federal organizations in training most every day. The groups are as diverse as the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division, the Secret Service, forest rangers, customs officials and federal air marshals.

The students get intensive training in firearms, driving, physical training and, interestingly, spend a lot of time examining the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (regarding search and seizure). I was comforted to hear how much focus they have on my current worry – high-tech terrorism, such as the bad guys disabling the electrical power grid, the financial system or the communications system in the country.

The facilities are mind-boggling: Massive indoor firing ranges; a mock port of entry that would make you think you are in a major airport; a "neighborhood village" set up with cameras to record raids made on crack houses, pawn shops, biker hangouts. There is a mock restaurant and bar, a replica of an Iraqi village, and a full-size courtroom where trainees face prosecutors and a judge and jury to defend their arrests.

There is a place to blow up cars, investigate arson and rescue people via helicopters. There is even a moonshine still (non-working) and a meth lab (ditto).

On the grounds of the facility is a somber reminder of the danger agents face, a monument containing the names of 175 agents who attended FLETC over the past 40 years and were killed in the line of duty.

Most of us still stick our heads in the sand and think terrorism will go away if we just don’t think about it.

FLETC is and is making a huge effort to keep us safe. It is a first-class operation. I will sleep sounder tonight.

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