Conducted outside the Tampa Convention Center Wednesday, residents looked on as service members from every branch of the U.S. military ran drills alongside commandos from Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Sweden and Thailand.
Local newspapers worked to relieve worried residents prior to the exercise, assuring them that the sound of gunshots and low-flying military helicopters was only part of a drill.
“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,” said The Tampa Tribune.
According to the training scenario, commandos were tasked with rescuing Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from an “insurgent village” held by “violent extremists.” Helicopters, boats, ground mobility vehicles, and commandos unloaded blank rounds as a 14-man team worked to locate the mayor.
“This was different,” one participant said. “This was a first for me. Usually no one sees what we do.”
Loud pyrotechnics were used as four snipers on the roof of Tampa General Hospital surveyed the mayor’s rescue.
“It was fun,” Buckhorn told reporters. “I love doing this. I love supporting Socom and the men and women that serve there.”
The demonstration was held in conjunction with the fourth International Special Operations Forces conference, where delegates from 84 nations met to strengthen “the Global SOF Network.”
High-ranking members including Army Lt. Gen. Joe Votel discussed several topics including the “nightmare scenario” of “Sunni extremists or extremist organizations” obtaining biological, chemical, radiologic or nuclear weapons.
“I think we have to be concerned about them falling into the hands of people who would have less difficulty employing those and for me that’s why I think this is hugely important,” Votel said while also mentioning the situation in Syria. “I do think we have to be very, very concerned.”
A noticeable increase in domestic urban warfare exercises, like the unannounced 2012 military helicopter drill over Miami that used simulated gunfire, has made many uncomfortable given recent revelations about military training aimed at mainline Americans.
Army troops at Mississippi’s Camp Shelby blew the whistle last October after being told that the American Family Association, a mainline Christian ministry, was a domestic hate group similar to the Ku Klux Klan.
Soldiers at Fort Hood were recently warned that anyone supporting anti-abortion, Christians or Tea Party groups could face disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Soldiers were told that such groups presented a major domestic terror threat to the country.
In August 2013, a Department of Defense training manual uncovered by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch labeled supporters of “individual liberties” and “states’ rights” as “extremist.” The manual also warned military personnel against “active participation” with such organizations. …