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Westmoreland County church leaders to get firearms training

Stephen Huba
| Thursday, May 10, 2018, 12:48 p.m.
Westmoreland County native Rodney 'Chief' Smith, founder of the Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy, leads a workshop in church security at  Beacon Independent Baptist Church, Bolivar, in 2017.
Westmoreland County native Rodney 'Chief' Smith, founder of the Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy, leads a workshop in church security at Beacon Independent Baptist Church, Bolivar, in 2017.

Local church leaders concerned about shootings at their places of worship soon will have a chance to get actual firearms training, including range time.

Rodney Smith, a Westmoreland County native and certified firearms instructor, plans to return to the area June 22-23 to offer a 16-hour advanced security course to interested churches.

Smith, 59, of Flowery Branch, Ga., taught free, three-hour courses in Bolivar, New Florence and Fairfield Township last year and at a Hempfield church in February. Nearly 100 people attended the first round of training sessions for the general public.

The upcoming course is for pastors and lay leaders who have a state firearms permit and who can bring their own handgun and ammunition.

“What we train is situation awareness, active shooter, active threat, use of deadly force, carry laws and room clearing,” Smith said. “Our goal is to enhance our students' awareness to respond and react to an active threat situation.”

Smith, a native of Bolivar, founded the Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy in July 2015, a month after a white supremacist killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Since then, he has taught security courses in more than 50 churches, most of them in Georgia.

A man opened fired last September at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ near Nashville, killing a woman and wounding six others.

In November, a gunman shot and killed 26 people attending a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The shootings in Tennessee and Texas make such training all the more necessary, Smith said.

The training will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 22 at Calvary Baptist Church, 792 S. Center Ave., New Stanton, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 23 at the Irwin Sportsmen's Association (pistol range), 995 Oakside Drive, Irwin.

Cost is $200 per person. Space is limited. Pre-registration is recommended, although walk-ins will be accepted.

To register, visit .

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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