FORT BLISS---The Air Force has picked Fort Bliss to be the home of its new consolidated training center.
Last week, about 100 dignitaries from Fort Bliss and the Air Force attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Ground Combat Readiness Training Center, also known as Desert Defender, located on Staff Sgt. Sims Road near the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
The Air Force has conducted training for its Security Forces, similar to the Army's Military Police, at Fort Bliss since 2008. What is new is the Air Force has consolidated five or six regional training centers into one location at Fort Bliss, said Brig. Gen. Allen J. Jamerson, director of Security Forces for the Air Force.
About 2,500 to 4,500 airmen will come through the center each year to get combat training and will take classes that typically last for about 20 days, officials said. The center has a staff of about 70 but that will eventually increase to about 180.
Fort Bliss went through an exhaustive process that looked at numerous factors and came out on top because of things like its training ranges and other facilities, Jamerson said.
"If you've been to Fort Bliss, you understand why this is the right place," Jamerson said.
The consolidated training center will also allow the Air Force to standardize its training and curriculum instead of having it spread over about a half-dozen locations, Jamerson said.
Maj. Tim Neel, commander of the Fort Bliss center, said by consolidating a handful of regional training facilities, it will save the Air Force money and produce more effective training.
The center will train Air Force Security Forces in combat skills, not law enforcement, said Col. Mike Kelly, commander of the Air Force Security Forces Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base. They will learn how to defend air bases in combat zones or other potentially hostile areas, to be snipers, conduct convoys and other skills, Kelly said.
The center will also use a staff of instructors consisting of active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Reservist personnel, making it a model for the concept of "total force integration," which brings together the best elements of all three groups, said Maj. Ken Poindexter, deputy commander for the Fort Bliss training center.
The center creates a "one-stop shop" for training Security Forces airmen to defend air bases worldwide in potential combat zones or other austere operating locations and to perform additional combat-related duties, Poindexter said.