Chuck Prichard escorted Historic City News editor Michael Gold through heavy security this morning as the St Augustine National Marine Training Center celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by several influential Homeland Security leaders.
If you were driving down King Street this morning, you may have noticed two uniformed officers standing watch over a small sign with the Homeland Security logo and cryptic initials “N M T C” and probably paid no attention.
Their appearance may have seemed inconspicuous; however, they were on post to direct the vehicles of some of the nation’s top-level Department of Homeland Security leaders to the site of a welcome new addition to St Augustine’s military infrastructure.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s maritime force of over 500 agents deployed in 281 vessels, are used to detect, interdict, and prevent acts of terrorism and the unlawful movement of people, illegal drugs and other contraband into the United States.
Each of those specialized agents must receive tactical training to prepare them for their national security mission. As of December 1, 2011, that training, nationwide, will occur in a Riberia Street classroom in St. Augustine, Florida and in real-life “blue water” and “brown water” exercises.
“St Augustine was chosen for a number of reasons,” Prichard told Historic City News. “Some of the considerations that led to the decision to locate here were the easy access to inland and ocean waterways and less commercial traffic than would be encountered in a port city like Jacksonville or Miami.”
The motto “Time and tide wait for no one” is emblazoned on the official seal of the newly dedicated training center; which also contains images of palm trees, a sabre and flintlock pistol over a background of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Thirty different courses totaling 40,000 hours of instruction will be meted out in the form of advanced law enforcement training to agents that will be stationed around the country — from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans.
John Parkey is the Director of the new National Marine Training Center in St Augustine; the Deputy Director is Timothy Stellhorn.
Merton Cox, III, the Executive Director of Training, Safety and Standards for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, and Assistant Commissioner Michael Kostelnik, spoke to the audience of about 100 attendees this morning.
Kostelnik, who cut the ceremonial ribbon, and Cox, are stationed at Headquarters, Washington, DC.
St Augustine Mayor Joseph L. Boles, Jr., made a few remarks during the ceremony, which culminated in a tour of the facility and reception catered by Gypsy Cab.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer