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As I approached the door, I pressed the back of my hand against it to ensure there was no fire on the other side. It felt cool, so I proceeded. But when I opened the door, smoke billowed out. The entire room was filled. It was impossible to see anything.
I began crawling on all fours to the left wall. I told my teammates that we would be moving along it until we found our way out. To make sure we didn't lose contact with each other, my colleague Adam Kredo grabbed on to my right boot, and the person behind him grabbed on to his. We crawled through the thick smoke, hugging the wall until we made it to the exit and poured outside.
The escape was incredibly stressful but, thankfully, it wasn't real. There was no fire. The smoke was artificial and nontoxic. It was all part of a training exercise devised by the State Department in the wake of the Benghazi attacks, when fire was used as a weapon and four Americans were killed.
The smoke room was not the only hands-on training we saw while touring the department's new facility. There's also a drifting track, a closed driving course, pyrotechnic displays, and an off-roading course.
These are all things you might expect at an adventure park, things civilians might do for fun. But at the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC), they're all there to help train the State Department's Diplomatic Security Services in how to save lives.
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