In early September we welcomed five International Visitor Leadership Program professionals from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, and Timor-Leste to northwest Florida. The group’s national agenda sought to highlight challenges in combating piracy and to emphasize maritime security operations and inter-agency coordination.
On the first day, the group met Patrick Nichols of Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola and joined him for an orientation and tour. Captain Keith Hoskins, Commanding Officer of NAS Pensacola, then highlighted the history and strategic importance of the base as a training center for the United States Navy and answered the group’s questions concerning its mission. This introductory meeting segued naturally into discussion at the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity (NETSAFA) International Training Center where Gordon Lawry introduced the group to Commander Russell Van Diepen and his team who shared information about NETSAFA NITC international training courses, specifically the International Anti-Terrorism/Anti-Piracy course which bolsters international collaboration against maritime piracy and crime.
City of Pensacola Councilman Charles Bare continued the community welcome with an overview of the history of Pensacola, the local government, and the economy. The visitors shared information about their jobs and also received the gift of honorary citizenship with the city from Mayor Ashton Hayward III.
Representatives of the Port of Pensacola, the U.S. Coast Guard, and a local business, Offshore Inland Marine and Oilfield Services, Inc., met the visitors at the Port of Pensacola. While U.S. Department of Homeland Security Port Director Frank Lenox and Port of Pensacola Glenda White discussed security measures and inspection processes to combat potential smuggling and trafficking, Buddy McCormick highlighted security measures of particular interest to private companies. U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Kurt Brandstaetter and Port Security Specialist Patrick Coleman contributed heavily to the discussion as well, answering a myriad of visitor questions. Glenda White impressed everyone by preparing welcoming notes for each visitor in his native language.
At the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Chief of Forensic Services Mary Jean Havener introduced the visitors to members of her team and had her scientists and law enforcement agents explain their work in several fields including fingerprinting and questioned documents. The focus of the site visit to the FDLE was an unforgettable mixture of crime scenes, evidence collection, and the stages of processing evidence.
Between meetings, the group explored the National Naval Aviation Museum, Fort Pickens, and Pensacola Beach. Teresa and William Preston and Paula Drummond and Joe Hemmer also welcomed the professionals to their homes for dinners, giving them a special souvenir of their American experience.
We extend a special thank you to all who made the visitors’ time in Pensacola a rewarding experience!