PENSACOLA, Fla. — Training international students at Navy Air Station Pensacola is a core part of the base’s mission.
The base was the site of a deadly shooting Friday when a Saudi national opened fire, killing three people and wounding several others. The suspect, who died, has not been identified.
The base employs 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel. This includes major tenant commands: Naval Aviation Schools Command, Naval Air Technical Training Center, Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 and 23, the Blue Angels (the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron), and the headquarters for Naval Education Training Command, a command that combines direction and control of all Navy education and training.
International students can complete all or part of the typical 18-month syllabus on base and must go through several federal vetting processes before training at NAS Pensacola.
“The way that program works is that the foreign government has to certify that these are the best of their best, that these are their future generals and admirals and senior military officials for their countries,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. “The U.S. State Department does a scrub on those prospective trainees, and after that they matriculate into the program.
“That’s a really important part of what our military does because it has people use our systems and train alongside our military members,” he added. “They are more receptive and more capable and more willing to work with us when the time arises, should U.S. interests be impacted.”
Pensacola shooting: What we know about the shooting at the Navy air base
The base’s Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity International Training Center is a department on base that specializes in training aviators from other countries and forging international partnerships.
NITC has several partnerships with the Royal Saudi Air Forces, including an undergraduate pilot basic aviation preparatory training course, a senior executive leadership course and a junior officer enhanced leadership course.
The NITC “provides training in numerous military disciplines, operational and administrative, tailored to meet the needs of our international partner nations,” according to its website.