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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bob Buckhorn has a hostage thing going on

[Tampa Bay Times]

[Tampa Bay Times]

More than just about any American mayor, Tampa's Bob Buckhorn is used to surrendering.

Buckhorn surrenders the city every year to the invading "pirates" for Gasparilla. And next Wednesday, he will once again be "captured" by bad guys only to be rescued by an international contingent of commandos.

It's all part of the International Special Operations Forces week conference that kicks off next week at the Tampa Convention Center.

The conference, which has become a biannual event, coincides with the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa and will bring together representatives from more than 80 nations focused on "evolving the network to counter emerging threats," according to U.S. Special Operations Command.

While the ISOF convention is closed to the public, and the SOFIC convention has limited access, mostly to the military, intelligence community and industry, the mayor's capture, as in the past, will be a public event observed by thousands.

Buckhorn will be captured as part of what the military calls a capabilities demonstration.  As in the past, this year's event will turn the area around the convention center into a mock warzone, with commandos from 15 different nations "assaulting" mock enemy positions and rescuing "hostages" on land in in the water. 

The faux assault is designed to showcase how commandos from different nations can work together to achieve objectives. In reality, hostage rescues are among the most dangerous missions commandos undertake.

Earlier this year, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers was awarded the Medal Of Honor for heroics during a 2012 hostage rescue. And last year, Army Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, a member of Delta Force, was killed during a hostage rescue mission in Northern Iraq.

The public is invited to watch the half-hour demonstration, which will feature boats, assault vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters and other aircraft taking part in the rescue scenarios as special operators from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps work alongside counterparts from partner nations around the world.  All told, there will be 29 commandos from 15 nations, which have been in combat or trained with U.S. special operations forces for the past several decades, according to SoCom.

The northern tip of Harbor Island, west of the Harbor Island Bridge, and the bridge itself are available as viewing areas for the demonstration, according to the command.  There will also be limited viewing space on the water's edge adjacent to the Tampa Convention Center, "but much of it will be restricted to attendees of the conference and will be cordoned off for a safety perimeter," a SoCom media release states.

Boaters beware: The channels leading to the demonstration area behind the convention center will be blocked leading up to the demonstration in order to ensure the safety of the public and the operators.  Boats and other water craft will not be allowed in the demonstration area.

Buckhorn says he is looking forward to once again being held hostage.

"I have a chance to play a small role in the demonstration of their capabilities," Buckhorn told Bay Buzz. "I enjoy it thoroughly, plus I get 100 rounds on the 50-cal, which makes me really happy." 

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 5:55pm]


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