Training Against Terrorism.

August 1, 2008 By Chuck Crumbo The State

SLED Training
Students with GTI, the Government Training Institute, participate in a mock rescue of hostages at South Carolina Advanced Technology Park using helicopters to land officers on the roof and ladders to access a high door as part of their training Thursday. The scenario involved terrorists taking over a building and taking hostages. The Government Training Institute is opening corporate headquarters in Denmark.

Two police officers wearing bulletproof vests and helmets stood on the dark blue helicopter's skids as it landed on the building's roof.

Below, officers blew open a door with explosives, stormed through the opening and rescued hostages. The officers also arrested a handful of "tangos" - police and military jargon for terrorists.

The training exercise, put on Thursday by SLED agents, introduced South Carolina to its newest business - Government Training Institute.

The company, which offers tactical training for members of police and military agencies, is moving its training headquarters here from Boise, Idaho. Corporate offices will remain in Boise.

Police and governmental agencies, such as SLED, send officers to the company to learn the latest tactics needed to uproot terrorists. The trainers are former SWAT officers, Army military police and military special forces.

Most agencies pay for the training with grants from the Department of Homeland Security. The officers then return to their agencies to train others.

Company president and founder Chadd Harbaugh said his firm moved to South Carolina because it's about midway between New York and Florida. Also, about 85 percent of the company's clients are from the eastern half of the United States.

Harbaugh added that his company is strictly in the training business and has no plans to take on security work like Blackwater USA, a controversial security firm headquartered in North Carolina.

"Training police and military agencies is all we are," Harbaugh said. "We are not in the security business."

The company, founded in 2003, will have facilities in both Bamberg and Barnwell counties.

Bamberg will be the site of the training center, which will be housed in a 196,000-square-foot, one-story building. The facility will include classrooms, offices, mat room, weight room and indoor simulation area for close-quarter battles.

In Barnwell, GTI has a nine-year lease on a former nuclear-fuel reprocessing station that was built by Allied General Nuclear Services.

Located on the Barnwell County side of the Savannah River Site, the building has 16-inch-thick, concrete-reinforced walls, stands five stories tall and has another four levels below the ground.

The Barnwell complex also includes a:

  • Low-light area to train with night-vision goggles and thermal imagers
  • Firing range
  • Track for teaching defensive driving and to train officers for security details
  • Tower of stacked-up shipping containers that will be used to learn fast-roping and rappel techniques

In short, the facility is just about perfect for SWAT-type training.

"It's a mortal sin to have something like this and not to use it," said retired Maj. Gen. Steve Seigfried, a former Fort Jackson commander and former state homeland security director.

Local leaders welcomed the economic opportunity that the training center will bring to the two counties.

Officials of the Southern Carolina Alliance, an economic-development organization that markets the area, estimate the training center will make about a $2 million capital investment.

Harbaugh did not disclose the privately held company's payroll, but he said starting salary of an instructor is $52,000. About six employees are instructors.

Although the company will mean about 15 new jobs, officials noted hundreds of law enforcement officers and military officials will visit the center each year.

Since the company started, it has trained about 1,500 people representing 300 government and police agencies.

Harbaugh noted that the current class of police officers, which graduates today, spent $26,000 on lodging and another $20,000 on catering services during its four-week training session. Students stay in local motels.

SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd, who attended Thursday's ribbon-cutting, said having a training firm like GTI in the state will benefit law enforcement. That's because more officers will receive the same training and meet the same standards.

Five SLED agents attended a session last year and praised their training and the curriculum, said Capt. George Booth, who's in charge of the agency's tactical operations unit.

Because terrorists' tactics are always changing, police agencies need to keep up through constant training, officials said.