Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ground broken on new special ops university at MacDill

TAMPA — They don't have a football team. Haircuts on campus tend to be shorter than at most universities. It takes a top-secret clearance to get into some classes.

And students might be asked to talk about how to disrupt terrorist financial networks using lethal methods.

This is higher education — commando style.

U.S. Special Operations Command broke ground Thursday on a $34 million building for its Joint Special Operations University near SOCom's headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base. The 90,000-square-foot facility will provide a permanent home for a school that has been housed in an old credit union building just outside MacDill's main gate for about three years.

The new building is expected to be ready by the fall of 2015 and provides just the latest indication that, despite all the talk of Pentagon budget cuts, MacDill remains well positioned to survive in a leaner military post-Afghanistan.

"Nowhere in the world, literally, will you find such an academic institution dedicated to the professional study and practice of special operations," said Lt. Gen. John Mulholland Jr., SOCom's deputy commander.

The university was created in 2000 and was first located at Hurlburt Field in Florida's Panhandle to educate military and civilian leadership about how special operations forces are employed and on related national security issues. Officials say the school emphasizes critical thinking.

Last year, more than 8,200 military and civilian personnel participated in 150 seminars and courses, according to SOCom.

Shakespeare and Astronomy 101 won't be found in the university's course catalog, but at least three classes on aspects of irregular warfare are in the curriculum. No need to dust off that SAT primer — the special ops university is not open to the public and is not a university in the traditional sense of a four-year, degree-granting institution.

But the school has national accreditation, and coursework may be eligible for credit at other higher-education institutions.

The university is "making the difference in that intellectual agility that our forces have out on a very, very complex and ambiguous battlefield" the university's president, Brian Maher, said at the ground-breaking ceremony. "There was always some resistance. But we've made it."

Mulholland said such a school is needed for special operations forces to remain relevant in the modern world when the United States and its allies work together to battle threats to national security.

"We intend to deeply and comprehensively teach, inform and discuss that which you will find nowhere else in academia," he said.

William R. Levesque can be reached at

Ground broken on new special ops university at MacDill 02/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 11:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more


    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  2. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux


    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  3. Hailed as 'pioneers,' students from St. Petersburg High's first IB class return 30 years later


    ST. PETERSBURG — The students came from all over Pinellas County, some enduring hot bus rides to a school far from home. At first, they barely knew what to call themselves. All they knew was that they were in for a challenge.

    Class of 1987 alumni Devin Brown, from left, and D.J. Wagner, world history teacher Samuel Davis and 1987 graduate Milford Chavous chat at their table.
  4. Flower boxes on Fort Harrison in Clearwater to go, traffic pattern to stay


    I travel Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater often and I've noticed that the travel lanes have been rerouted to allow for what looks like flower boxes that have been painted by children. There are also a few spaces that push the travel lane to the center that have no boxes. Is this a permanent travel lane now? It …

  5. Palm Harbor boat dealer facing litany of complaints of bad deals


    PALM HARBOR — With an aging father sick in the hospital and a son just graduating high school, Andrew Kashella, in between jobs, knew what he had to do.

    A sign on a front window of Gulf Coast Boat Sales, 37517 Us Highway 19 N, in Palm Harbor, notifies people they are under restructuring  The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has received 20 complaints against Gulf Coast Boat Sales in Palm Harbor. Complainants say they sold the shop their boats and never got paid and/or paid for boats they never received. Pinellas County Consumer Protection is leading the investigation.