If you see military helicopters flying over downtown Tampa next Tuesday, it’s not a sign that we are under attack by the Russians, the North Koreans or the New World Order.
One or more Black Hawks will be full of commandos, practicing for a international special operations training exercise at the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday.
The demonstration will be part of the fourth International Special Operations Forces conference, being held at the convention center from May 19 to May 22.
Delegates from 84 nations will be attending the ISOF conference, which is focusing on “strengthening the Global SOF Network,” according to Navy Lt. Cmdr Matthew Allen, a spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base.
ISOF is among the prime venues for the global SOF community to meet, learn from each other and advance a coordinated effort to meet security challenges.
ISOF week coincides with the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, which is also held at the convention center. SOFIC, as it is known, features an array of industry representatives displaying their wares on the convention center floor and speeches delivered by top special operations commanders, including Socom commander, Adm. William McRaven.
The demonstration is the public display associated with the ISOF conference. Aside from Navy SEALs and other U.S. special operations forces, commandos from Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland and Thailand will take part, said Allen.
The objective, as it was when there was a demonstration two years ago, will be to rescue a hostage from “jihadis.”
Just like the previous ISOF demonstration, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who usually surrenders to faux swashbucklers, will once again supplicate himself to an imaginary adversary.
“I keep having to give ... up to pirates and special operators,” said Buckhorn in an interview before last month’s GEOINT 2013* Symposium. “I will fight them off as long as I can. I think I can take pirates, but commandos are a whole other story. Their guns are real.”
The demonstration, which takes place at 1:30 p.m., will feature a six-man SEAL team, four snipers on the roof of Tampa General Hospital, six-man teams inside the helos, a 14-man team converging on the “enemy encampment” along Harbour Island Boulevard by ground mobility vehicle and another 14-man team infiltrating via water on rigid-hull inflatable boat.
Though the actual rescue will take place behind the convention center, Allen points out that there will be plenty of good places to take in the action, much of it by air, along the Harbour Island and Davis Islands bridges. He added that those who are parking near the hospital need to make sure they are not blocking emergency entrances.
Festivities associated with the conferences kick off 10 a.m. Sunday, May 18, with the 2014 Operator Challenge, a sports shooting competition among commandos being held at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office range, 14063 County Rd. 39 in Lithia. The event is free to spectators. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.