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The hills of West Virginia bring to mind beautiful vistas and expansive coal mines. But the Mountain State is also home to many federal installations, including one of the nation’s most advanced training facilities for law enforcement, corrections and first-response personnel.

jailhouse2.jpgThe NCLETTC (National Corrections and Law Enforcement Training and Technology Center) is observing its tenth year of service to public safety personnel from the tri-state region of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania—as well as military and LE organizations across the country.

Founded in 1998, NCLETTC got started with support from the state’s Division of Corrections, the Moundsville Economic Development Council, the Office of Law Enforcement Tech­nology Commercialization (a program of the National Institute of Justice), and Wheeling Jesuit University. These organ­izations pooled their expertise in training development and implementation to establish the facility at the former West Virginia State Penitentiary. The old prison, located in Moundsville about 12 miles south of Wheeling, features Gothic gray stone walls, turrets and battlements reminiscent of Dracula’s castle. Begun during the Civil War, it held as many as 2,000 men at the high point of its operation between 1876 and 1995, when the state transferred the inmate population to Mt. Olive Correctional Complex near Montgomery.

Two years after its retirement, the Corrections Division returned to Moundsville to begin training members of the Northern Correctional Facility’s cell-extraction and rescue team. This first “mock prison riot” exercise led to increasing interest in establishing a permanent center to provide high-technology training and system demonstration opportunities for a wide range of LE and corrections agencies, product manufacturers and the federal departments of Defense, NASA, and Energy, among others. The 1998 event attracted representatives from 30 states and three countries who inspected dozens of new and emerging LE technologies and watched more than 80 tactical specialists from the region, Puerto Rico and the Federal Bureau of Prisons participate in training exercises.

That year, West Virginia Congressman Alan B. Mollohan helped secure funding for the new center with a $1 million grant from the Small Business Administration, and the state legislature appropriated additional money for facility renovation to support envisioned activities. NCLETTC was off and running as a full-time training center handling a variety of events and courses for first responders. Importantly, the new facility anticipated the growing interest in public safety applicable to Homeland Security concerns following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

NCLETTC’s purview is eclectic and comprehensive. The facility’s resources permit on-site training with advanced classroom technologies involving video, surround sound, a computer laboratory and digital audiovisual aids. The site’s large size gives personnel realistic tactical and patrol training in virtually unlimited scenarios applicable to police, corrections, fire and rescue and other public safety professionals, all utilizing video for feedback on performance and compliance with newly learned techniques. The prison’s old cell blocks enable corrections officers to conduct training in the interior spaces they are most likely to find on the job. The prison’s large yard offers outdoor training for everything from crowd control to large-area disaster relief for LE and other public safety personnel. A showcase area displays new technology systems for agencies. An indoor firing range is available to develop weapons proficiency among trainees, and a team-building obstacle course for physical fitness and team-building rounds out the Center.

The Expanding Training Center
The Center expanded in 2005, establishing the Glenville Center Annex at Glenville State College, near the state’s geographic center. The Annex added accessibility to NCLETTC for West Virginians less able to travel to Moundsville. The Glenville Annex offers classrooms, a computer lab, a fingerprint lab, a crime-scene facility and a firearms simulator as well as accommodations for students and instructors. The Annex also cooperates with the college’s Criminal Justice program and offers hands-on training to students who plan to enter the growing field and need to gain practical experience before they leave school.

An Online Training Academy that enables specialists in all public safety disciplines to study and earn certifications at their homes or duty stations. The Center also provides custom training courses designed to meet specific needs of agencies regardless of budget limitations, location, manpower and other limiting factors. Finally, to increase its reach, NCLETTC has developed a Mobile Training Team that can offer courses and specialized training at locations convenient to the agencies NCLETTC serves.

Evaluating New Systems
Beyond training, the Center also has the expertise to provide unbiased evaluations of new systems and applications for public safety agencies. Several businesses have welcomed NCLETTC reviews of their products to incorporate practical improvements and new features that will benefit future public safety customers. A number of these innovations already are available to the national market and have improved agency effectiveness.

According to Michael Logsdon, NCLETTC Executive Director, the facility’s primary market base is from the tri-state area, but the program focus is nationwide and prospects for growth at the national level are excellent. “Depending on the class, it can be beneficial for departments to train multiple agencies together. More people get the quality training they need and the cost to the agency can be offset with the addition of other department,” Logsdon explained. “The need for training grows every day due to changing environments such as September 11, or the increase in school shootings and violence within communities. New laws, liability issues and safety matters all come into focus when people train, along with the advent of new or improved technologies.”

Logsdon, who heads a permanent staff of 10, also noted, “Annually, we train about 2,500 students. This total does not include our special events like the Mock Prison Riot, Mock Disaster and Tri-State Training Alliance. Initially, the focus of our program was corrections and law enforcement, but in 2002, when we organized our first community-based first responder exercise—Mock Disaster—we immediately recognized a need for comprehensive public safety training to ensure all relevant agencies had solid experience working together effectively.”

The Mock Disaster’s principal objective is to provide realistic operational training for emergency service providers in planning for, evaluating, responding to and containing large-scale civil or natural disasters. NCLETTC emphasizes pre-planning, preparation, integrated incident command and control, recovery and evaluation of lessons learned. The annual event has tested the capabilities of regional agencies to handle unexpected situations and evaluated organization training goals set by the National Incident Management System. Scenarios have included a school hostage crisis, mass casualty simulations, chemical spills and public health emergencies.

For LE Agencies Worldwide
The Tri-State Training Alliance involves more than 40 agencies from the region’s three states that handle public safety, law enforcement and corrections within their respective jurisdictions. The Alliance oversees training, education and networking services for the benefit of its member agencies.

NCLETTC also has hosted training for our military services, Logsdon added. “National Guard units use the facility regularly. The Center also lends itself as a great place for agencies like Immigration, Customs and Enforcement. The U.S. Army, Navy and Marines have trained here at one time or another.”

Logsdon said that the Center is a unique facility, in part because of the breadth of its capabilities but also because of the technologies NCLETTC incorporates. “In today’s world, technology is a large part of training. For better protection of our officers and responders, for safer means of responding within a community and to minimize harm to an assailant, technology has to be part of an effective training program today,” he said. “As part of an officer’s uniform, technology is an extension of that officer, and it is critical to train for any situation that may arise. Existing technology within a department must be integrated with training to prepare professionals to utilize it effectively in high-stress situations.”
NCLETTC regards itself as a national resource for first responders. Enrollment in courses and programs is open to certified police officers, sheriffs, correctional officers, investigative agents and members of the first responder and criminal justice communities. The Center’s staff can, however, waive these requirements for other individuals with specific training needs. Courses require minimal enrollments, and classes fill on a first-come, first-served basis. The Center’s fee and refund requirements ensure smooth planning and help to guarantee students are serious about the enrollment requirements.

In the years ahead, Logsdon believes NCLETTC will become a linchpin for training in the growing first-responder community. This means the hills of West Virginia will welcome a growing cadre of LE and related personnel for a growing list of training courses, which embody advanced technologies and techniques that contribute to the nation’s security needs.

For more information about NCLETTC, contact Michael Logsdon, Executive Director, at 877-625-3882, or email the Center at nclettc@nclettc.org.

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