2018 SOFIC: Record crowd for annual special operations convention

Special operators during a "rescue" operation demonstration Wednesday at 2018 SOFIC in Tampa, FL.

TAMPA, Fla. – A record-setting crowd of nearly 14,000 and “rescue” of Tampa’s mayor using military might were among highlights of this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, which wrapped up Thursday at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida.

About 13,400 attendees representing more than 75 countries were logged for the 2018 conference, known as SOFIC, the largest turnout the event has ever had, said Christine Klein, senior vice president for meetings and business partnerships for the National Defense Industrial Association. The Arlington, Va.-based defense association produces the yearly event for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base.

“We are very happy with the level of collaboration and pleased that we could facilitate this open dialog between industry and USSOCOM,” Klein said. “So many people worked all year to make this latest SOFIC a unique offering, and this level of participation is evidence that we’re heading in the right direction.” The event took place May 21-24.

About 475 vendors exhibited in more than 100,000 square feet of space at the convention center. Each year, SOFIC brings together industry and acquisition and technology experts as well as commanding officers from USSOCOM.

For four days this time, these professionals met and discussed the needs of special operations forces operators from equipment to technology to the processes for putting these tools into forces’ hands. To that end, Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisitions and sustainment, gave a keynote address Wednesday outlining her plan to do just that.

“The (congressional) mandate is to start prototyping and experimenting – to do a lot of what SOCOM and SOF do so well,” Lord said, calling upon industry to do its part.

Among this year’s SOFIC features was a nine-country demonstration of Special Operations forces who Wednesday performed a mock rescue of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The mayor was “kidnapped” by foes and held hostage in a makeshift village on the grounds between the convention center and the bridge to Harbour Island.

The event was a demonstration of the training and maneuvers of Special Operations Forces and the heavy equipment that is part of their dangerous work, normally done at night. The rescue teams were comprised of officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers from Colombia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Singapore and the United States.  Personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation also took part.

Thousands of spectators lined bridges and shores and watched from assorted vantage points as helicopters carrying the forces flew low over the waters, dropping troops into the bay and onto ships. Support-by-fire and sniper teams filled the air with loud snaps of rapid gun fire and explosions – blanks were used – plus the roar of MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and MH-6 Little Bird helicopters as they dropped troops into place. A boat Assault Force and military free-fall parachute team also took part.

For video coverage for 2018 SOFIC visit www.YouTube.com/SOFICTV The next SOFIC event is set for May 20-23, 2019. For information, contact Evamarie Socha, NDIA communications director, esocha@ndia.org

Topics: Special Operations

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