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At a 2015 Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) graduation ceremony, Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command at that time, encapsulated the importance of the school to the partner nations.
“Because our world becomes more intertwined globally by the day, it is imperative that we all realize that what happens in one part of the world affects not only just that country but may even have global effects. NAVSCIATTS enables us to both teach and learn from one another and in turn enhance our enduring partnerships.”
The school currently offers 10 courses specializing in small craft strategy, operations, communications, weapons, and maintenance. It also provides a formal Partner Nation instructor program development which has historically supported the training and education of nearly 1,000 Foreign Security Forces and other international students from a combination of in-resident and Mobile Training Team courses of instruction. Located at the John C. Stennis Space Center, in Mississippi, the NAVSCIATTS facility possesses some of the finest riverine and littoral training areas in the world.
That setting provides a first-rate environment for security force assistance training with partner nations as they are confronted with many common security challenges including terrorism and illicit trafficking of both narcotics and people.
“NAVSCIATTS is an international training command, and the framework allows us to share the burdens of our interagency and coalition partners globally,” said the school’s current director, Cmdr. Donald Speights. “We provide U.S. troops and partner nation security force professionals a training environment that supports interoperability, while simultaneously increasing partner and ally capabilities, capacity, and legitimacy.”
The school originally began as the U.S. Coast Guard Mobile Training Team which was sent to Panama in 1961, only to be moved to a facility at the U.S. Naval Station in Rodman, Panama in 1963 and renamed as the USCG Small Craft Inspection and Training Team. Six years later operational control was transferred to the U.S. Navy and re-designated as the Small Craft Instruction and Technical Team. As a result of increased training demands, NAVSCIATTS was officially established as a naval shore activity in October 1982, and formally established as a naval shore command in July 1983. After the closure of U.S. base facilities in Panama in 1999, NAVSCIATTS was relocated to its permanent home at the John C. Stennis Space Center.
Throughout its time, the school has trained more than 13,000 students from more than 120 partner nations, with courses offered in English, French, Spanish, and other languages with translators. About 10,000 students have come from Central and South American, and Caribbean nations.
The significance of it all, said Speights, is how many returning nations are enrolled. “They value our training and continue to send students to develop skills, which has created a global demand for NAVSCIATTS training. [The school] has evolved from a once exclusive U.S. Southern Command focus, and now encompasses a broader global audience.”
“This evolution has been slow and deliberate. Over the last 10 years NAVSCIATTS has become an internationally recognized brand throughout the security cooperation enterprise. NAVSICATTS, to date, has hosted [students from] more than 123 different participating nations,” Speights added.
The partner nation alumni who have passed through the school – especially those from the Western Hemisphere – have been very notable and have gone on to lead at the command level. Many have also achieved the rank of flag officers. Past alumni include:
One of the most important benefits of attending NAVSCIATTS is camaraderie and relationship building. Speights said it’s evident in the number of alumni who continue to maintain contact with the school’s staff and instructors. Additionally, the school also offers a two-year instructor program for partner nation representatives to serve as members of the training staff. Students study staff and curriculum development, gaining the skills they need to return home and strengthen their own training institutions or in some instances, create new ones – such as the case in Colombia with their Riverine Center of Excellence in the Gulf of Uraba, which has become one of the top riverine training facilities in the region.
“Overall, it comes down to the quality of training, respect for our partners, and understanding partner-nation challenges that form and foster the most important aspect of this training institution, which is the development of long-term relationships and trust building,” said Speights. “These are invaluable commodities that support U.S. security cooperation primacies in addressing global challenges.”