U.S. Special Forces and commandos from 16 foreign nations practiced “invading” Tampa, Fl. this week during an unprecedented international training exercise.
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, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland 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 the 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.
Leaked Marine Corps’ documents uncovered this month showed how a separate military urban training center in North Carolina was updated to include a Baptist church and farmhouses, transforming it from its original foreign appearance.
Given the fact that a large portion of U.S. troops align themselves with conservative values, the federal government’s actions towards the military is unsurprising. In 2009, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stood by a report that labeled returning military veterans as the main terror threat.
Also troublesome is the erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the federal government from using the military as domestic law enforcement. In 2008, the Army Times reported on how U.S. troops returning from Iraq were tasked with carrying out “homeland patrols” for “civil unrest and crowd control” support. The article hinted that “Brigade Homeland” may become a permanent fixture on American streets.
That same year, citizens in California were shocked to find troops from the Marine Corps Air and Ground Combat Center in California working at a sobriety checkpoint with the California Highway Patrol.
Attendees of a Kentucky Derby race in 2009 were also stunned when military police working at the event were witnessed detaining a man who ran on the track.
In 2011 it was reported that military police in Florida were detaining criminal suspects off of military bases, in one specific case a man at a Circle K convenience store.
The most troublesome aspect lies in President Obama’s passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which granted the military the ability to indefinitely detain any American without charge or trial for the first time in U.S. history. Under the law, any American purportedly connected to terrorism can be held until the “end of the war on terror.”