Regional Counterdrug Training Academy Celebrates 25 Years

The year was 1991.  Narcotics trafficking along the Gulf Coast was overrunning Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.   It was clear that law enforcement needed more training and new techniques.  It began with a simple idea.  Bring the best law enforcement training to one place, then provide meals and lodging all at no-cost to participants or their agencies.

A coalition of law enforcement leaders from the three states, the region’s congressional delegations and three Governors formed a partnership with the Department of Defense and the Mississippi National Guard. From the desperate need for more law enforcement training grew the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy (RCTA) based at Naval Air Station Meridian.

Since the first class in 1992, more than 130,000 officers from all 50 states and Puerto Rico have attended classes at the RCTA.  Two additional states, Georgia and Tennessee, have joined the original three partner states.

Using Congressional appropriations, the RCTA continues to provide world-class instruction to street-level law enforcement professionals. Civilian instructors, who are experts in their fields, teach the classes. The Mississippi National Guard provides the administration and infrastructure.

Today, the RCTA’s facilities include an urban training complex with nine buildings and a four-story rappel tower, modern dormitories and a classroom building with a computer lab.

“One of our biggest challenges has been helping law enforcement professionals keep up with changing technology,” said RCTA’s Commandant Lt. Colonel Gary Crist. “As an example, in the 80’s, drug dealers were using pagers, then mobile phones and now smart phones and social media. Investigators need to know how to legally examine those electronics and be able to extract information that furthers their investigations.”

“Given the gap between the well-funded narcotics dealers and many of the smaller rural police departments in our region, there is a huge demand for our classes,” Crist said.

Crist went on to say that the RCTA course catalog could be broken down into four categories operational, interdiction, investigative and intelligence-technical.

Among those classes is a 2-week Basic Technical Surveillance Class that teaches participants how to properly use covert electronics surveillance equipment.  The “Follow the Money!” course teaches officers how to investigate narcotics organizations and seize their illegally obtained assets.  A Cellular Triangulation and Forensics Class covers how to identify, preserve, analyze and report on incriminating data extracted from cell phones and other mobile devices.

“Our instructors are on the forefront of technology,” said the RCTA’s Director of Training Tim Rutledge. He spent 37 years working in law enforcement.  29 of those years were at the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.  Rutledge supervises instructors and insures the curriculum is current and relevant.  He also acts as the liaison between the RCTA and its Board of Directors who represent law enforcement agencies from the five partner states.  The Board works to insure that the RCTA continues to meet the changing training.

Rutledge went on to say that “it is the Congressional funding that allows the RCTA to help law enforcement professionals leverage technology.”

The RCTA offers more than 50 different classes all at no cost to participants. To learn more about the RCTA and its classes visit

Wadi Sawabini
 teaches federal, state and local law enforcement professionals how to shoot evidence grade video for crime scenes and surveillance.  His customers include the ATF, Border Patrol, DEA and the FBI.  He teaches a Video Surveillance class for the RCTA.   He can be reached by email at:





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