Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI
BRUNSWICK -- The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center resembles a traditional suburban college campus with a few exceptions.
Students shouldering backpacks traverse tree-lined streets amid dormitories, classroom buildings, administrative offices, a dining hall and a physical training complex.
They study during meals and pore over classwork late at night in their dorm rooms.
But the lessons they learn are culled from the Sept. 11 attacks, suicide bombings from London to Baghdad and from deadly shootouts with desperate felons.
The muffled staccato of gunfire from 18 firearm ranges; the dull whumpf of explosions at a secured detonation field; the scratchy rustling of body armor as students prepare for a training exercise involving a role player posing as a gunman -- all these sounds emphasize the life-or-death nature of the center's curriculum.
"Our goal is to save lives, whether we're talking about terrorism or regular policing," said Connie Patrick, center director since 2002.
The center is the largest law enforcement training establishment of its kind in the country. It marked its 35th anniversary this month.
Thousands of federal, state, local and international law enforcement officers train at the center each year.
The state-of-the art training at the center, based at Glynco near Brunswick, has been described as crucial to the nation's security by Vice President Dick Cheney and congressional leaders.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the center has developed counterterrorism and intelligence analysis training programs for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
It also has improved the use of computer-assisted technology to create realistic simulations for hands-on training exercise.
The center's mandate is to help law enforcement keep at least one step ahead of the bad guys, regardless of whether they are terrorists, drug traffickers, cyber-criminals or run-of-the-mill thugs.
"We support law enforcement. Their success is our mission and our success," Patrick said. ". . . The better we do our job to help them train and prepare, the better able they are to protect the citizens."
An offshoot of the center's mission is its impact on the Southeast Georgia economy. The center generates about $600 million in total business revenue annually, according to a Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute study.
Glynco is the center's flagship training facility. Additional training facilities are in Artesia, N.M., Charleston, S.C., Cheltenham, Md., Gaborone, Botswana, and San Salvador, El Salvador.
Almost 45,000 students graduated last year from the center's facilities. In comparison, 848 graduated the inaugural year in 1970, records show.
The students train in subjects ranging from counterterrorism and detecting weapons of mass destruction to investigating computer-related crimes or safely arresting a violent suspect.
"We take a proactive approach to training. . . . Our training is continuously updated because the situation out in the field is constantly changing," said instructor Mike Poillucci, who teaches students the proper use of force.
The most visible example of that philosophy is an estimated $40 million multi-use Counterterrorism Operations Training complex under construction on about 220 acres at Glynco.
When finished in September 2011, it will house a half-dozen training environments replicating domestic and international scenarios.
The complex will include a mock residential neighborhood featuring schools, row houses and apartment buildings, plus functional replicas of a subway station, train depot and underground infrastructure.
Some anti-terrorism training exercises already are conducted at the site. Adding realism to the exercises are a Boeing 727 airplane, freight and passenger railroad cars, and buses that all were donated to the center, Patrick said. …