History of the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy
The RCTA, located at the NAS, Meridian, MS, began as a component of the law enforcement agency sponsored, congressionally directed, Gulf States Counterdrug Initiative (GSCI).
Although sponsored by law enforcement, six U.S. Senators, nineteen U.S. Representatives, and three state Governors heavily endorsed the GSCI proposal. One of the provisions of the GSCI document was a request by the Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi senior drug law enforcement agencies (DLEAs) to establish a counterdrug training academy with the mission of training law enforcement officers in counterdrug skills. The Academy mission was initially focused on the three requesting states, but in 1996, the state of Georgia became an official member of the GSCI and in 2000, the State of Tennessee was admitted.
In addition to the GSCI states, the RCTA provides training to law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S., including the National Guardsmen involved in counterdrug support missions. This training is provided at no cost to the law enforcement officers or agencies. The only cost incurred by the agency is the transportation to and from the Academy. National Guard personnel do not incur a tuition cost, but are responsible for their own per diem and travel.
Based upon the LEA request for DOD "support" (defined as funding, administrative, logistical, equipment, personnel, etc.), and with guidance and resources provided by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Coordinator for Drug Enforcement Policy and Support, and the National Guard Bureau (NGB), the Mississippi National Guard accepted the mission of establishing a regional training center outlined in the GSCI document.
Initially it was decided that the training center would be located on the Naval Air Station in Meridian, MS. A decision was made to renovate the former Officers Club and make it the home of the new “Regional Counterdrug Training Academy.” A military commandant, Lieutenant Colonel James P. Hills, was appointed in March 1992. His immediate mission was to coordinate with the law enforcement community, the U.S. Navy, National Guard Bureau, and the Department of Defense to establish a training center to meet the needs of the law enforcement officers who would attend.
Also in March of 1992, a Board of Representatives was selected to help develop academic policy, monitor operations, create a curriculum , and provide support in promoting the RCTA. The Board of Representatives consisted of one representative from the senior law enforcement agency in the member states, the Director of the NGB Counterdrug Task Force, and the Mississippi National Guard Adjutant General.
|Due to the length of time required to renovate the Officers Club, and due to the immediate need for training, a temporary classroom was established in the ballroom of the Combined Bachelor's Quarters (CBQ) , NAS Meridian.
Two excess mobile homes were obtained at no charge from the Army Corps of Engineers, and served as administrative and logistics space.
With the signing of the Inter-Service Support Agreement with the U.S. Navy, and additional support staff on board, the first class was conducted at the RCTA in September of 1992.
In October of 1993, Colonel Stephen L. Goff became the second Commandant of the RCTA, and the new facilities were opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 19, 1994. In January of 1998, Colonel James P. Hills returned to assume command of the RCTA, and in July of 1998 the Academy opened its new Lakeside facility on NAS Meridian. This building, which was also a former Officers Club, provided additional office space plus three additional classrooms. In September 2001, Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Pierce was appointed as the fourth Commandant, and Colonel Sidney E. McDaniel was appointed as the fifth Commandant in February 2002. In February 2004, Colonel Robert E. Pierce returned to the RCTA as the sixth Commandant. In June 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Danny Pepper was appointed the seventh Commandant, and in November, 2008, COL Deborah Coleman became the eighth and current Commandant.
The RCTA training philosophy emphasizes hands-on training and demands a secure field training facility.
The RCTA designed and built a nine-building field-training facility for students to practice what they learn in the classroom.
NAS Meridian provided students from the Navy Technical Training Center, SEABEE detachment, and technical assistance from the Public Works department. The facility was opened after its completion in the fall of 1995. Since then, a mobile home, a UH-1 helicopter hull , and a 12-bay K-9 kennel have been added to increase the effectiveness and the reality of the training offered.
Since the first class began in September 1992, thousands of officers have graduated in over 43 different subjects at the RCTA. The target audience is state, county, and municipal uniformed officers and conventional narcotics investigators, with the primary focus on case-makers (street level).