Spread across the piney woods of three counties 50 miles southwest of Richmond, Fort Pickett has long been a secluded but interesting place.
I live in southwestern Chesterfield County, close enough to hear the rumbles of artillery being fired at the Virginia National Guard post. Sometimes Black Hawk helicopters roar over my house on their way to the base.
Lots of units train at Fort Pickett near Blackstone, including the Navy SEALS, Marines, Army, Air Force, the Secret Service, the State Police and even units of the Canadian army. There was a rumor (probably not true) a few years ago that Fort Pickett housed a mock-up of the Pakistan compound where Osama bin Laden was killed by SEALS.
Now, Fort Pickett is about to expand in a big way.
The U.S. State Department plans a $461 million facility to train U.S. Embassy security guards. The Foreign Affairs Security Training enter will train up to 10,000 State Department employees a year in using firearms, explosives and how to drive evasively.
Virginia beat out 80 other possibilities for the facility.
The deaths of several U.S. diplomats in Benghazi a few years ago underscore the need for competent security guards.
The U.S. Marines handle some embassy and consulate security but their numbers are small. The State Department has used private security companies, but there have been plenty of problems with that approach.
The new training center will help the local area and raise Virginia’s already high level of prestige when it comes to foreign affairs and the military.