Special Operations Forces (SOF) from the U.S. and partner nations around the world have descended on the city this week with a goal of building trust and partnerships.
The United States Special Operations Command is hosting the fourth International Special Operations Forces (ISOF) conference May 19 – 22 at the Tampa Convention Center. Delegates from 84 nations are attending this weeklong conference, focusing on the theme of “Strengthening the Global SOF Network.” The conference, which last occurred in 2012, allows leaders from throughout the global SOF community to meet, learn from each other and advance a coordinated effort to meet security challenges.
“We had been doing the International SOF week every four or five years, but two years ago when we did this convention, it was so successful, and I thought so important to bring together the Special Operations network that’s out there, I elected to instead of doing it every four years, do it every two years,” said Adm. William H. McRaven, USSOCOM commander, during a brief opening ceremony Monday evening. “What we hope to be able to accomplish during this week is to up the level of engagement to the senior level, to the operational or strategic level.”
McRaven stressed the importance of building the global SOF network and how partner forces must work together to achieve common goals.
“I do not view this as a global U.S. Special Operations network, this is a Global Special Operations network because of all the partners that are here tonight,” McRaven said. “If you’ve been around the Special Operations community for even a short period of time, you know that we act alike, we think alike, we look alike – you can spot a Special Operations operator in a crowd of 1,000 people – and this relationship, which we have built together over decades, we need to continue to reinforce so that we can get at the problems that are systemic across the globe. The problems of extremism, the problems of terrorism, the problems of international crime — problems that are not unique to any one nation that frankly will require all nations to come together to address these issues.”
Speaking again Tuesday morning to a large room filled with U.S. and international SOF, McRaven again stressed the importance of building parternships.
“I’ll tell you from the U.S. side, if we’ve learned anything from the past 13 years, it’s the value of relationships,” he said. “I think we’ve always known that, but of course war brings that out ten-fold. When you build the relationships we’ve built, when you learn to trust people implicitly because you have been to war with them, that is a very, very powerful way to establish trust.”
The highlight of the conference will be a Special Operations exercise with representatives from 16 nations training in tactics in land, sea and air scenarios. The event will take place behind the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m, with a rehearsal scheduled for Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. Both events are open to the public.
Also taking place during the week, and co-located at the Tampa Convention Center, the National Defense Industry Association will partner with USSOCOM’s acquisitions branch for the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), an annual event that features discussions between industry and military leaders to address SOF materiel requirements. A highlight of SOFIC is the Technology Exposition, where defense industry vendors display their latest equipment.