Fort Pickett chosen for embassy security training site

Posted at 7:27 PM, May 05, 2014

BLACKSTONE, VA (WTVR) -- Perhaps the significance of a new embassy security training facility being built at Fort Pickett is best summed up by Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn.

"This would be the biggest, positive thing to happen to Southside Virginia since Fort Pickett was built in 1942," Coleburn said.

On Monday CBS 6 was the only television station invited to attend a State Department briefing on the subject at the Fort.

Included in the update is the revised price tag of the project which will run around $400-plus million.

Scheduled to be built on the site -- which is currently home to the Virginia National Guard and is one of the largest facilities of its kind on the east coast -- are high speed maneuvering race tracks, gun ranges, and compound like facilities where attack drills can be simulated.

Senator Tim Kaine, along with a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers, announced the project weeks ago and participated in the Monday morning briefing which included a bus tour around base.

"Because its high speed chases and weapons training you need to be away from high populated areas - so Fort Pickett is a perfect location," Kaine told CBS 6 political reporter Joe St. George.

The project is receiving special attention in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans in September 2012.

On the tour with Senator Kaine was Republican Congressman Robert Hurt (VA - 5), who said while they have bipartisan support for the Fort Pickett project, there remains concern from some about the actions of the Obama administration immediately following the attacks.

"I would really like to see the American people get the answers they need," Hurt said.

When asked about the subject, Senator Kaine said the Fort Pickett project was being planned years before the "Benghazi tragedy" occurred.

Kaine emphasized that "most people in Congress are talking about TV shows and talking points and not about fixes - this is a fix... this [Fort Pickett] is what we need to do about Benghazi."

The project could see as many as 10,000 trainees from around the world visit Fort Pickett in the years to come. Mayor Coleburn predicts as many as 1,500 permanent jobs will be created.

Coleburn told CBS 6 he believes half of the new employees will live around Nottoway County while the other half will live in Chesterfield based on numbers the State Department told him.

The project is still at least a year away from completion as permits and design plans need to be finalized.