My Twitter feed on MacDill Air Force Base has been out of this world lately.
Dozens of people from across the globe have tweeted out images purporting to show unidentified flying objects in the skies over MacDill. The tweets began Sept. 1 when a self-described UFO expert named Michael Salla sent out pictures of what he claims are extraterrestrial conveyances.
The photos, he writes on his Exopolitics.org website, are "of a triangular shaped UFO" taken near the base at about 8 a.m. Aug. 31 by a source he refers to only as "JP," with whom he had been communicating since 2008.
"These are not photoshopped or created by CGI, but genuine photos of a UFO that informed analysis suggests has design and technology characteristics similar to the TR-3B that is part of a USAF secret space air wing operating out of MacDill," Salla writes on his website.
In a story posted in February about sightings of such aircraft, the London-based Daily Express described the TR-3B as "alleged by conspiracy theorists to be a secret 'black project' spy craft of the US Government that can be flown into space."
A few days later, Salla tweeted more pictures, this time of what he claims were "a triangular UFO" taken near MacDill Air Force Base around 9:50 a.m. Sept. 4.
The movement "indicates that the triangular craft either used cloaking technology that would move from one end to the other end of the craft, or had entered a larger cloaked vehicle," Salla wrote.
On Sept. 6, Salla posted again, claiming that on Sept. 5 and 6, "more flying triangle shaped craft were photographed in the vicinity of MacDill."
He posted yet again about "cylindrical" UFOs flying near the base.
It's the home of U.S. Special Operations Command, Salla told me in an email.
"As you know, they perform covert missions around the world using classified technologies, some of which have been reverse engineered from recovered alien craft," Salla said.
SOCom officials could not be reached for comment. But Terry Montrose, a spokesman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill's host command, laughed when I asked him about Salla's claims.
"No, there are no secret UFOs or a secret Air Force Space Wing at MacDill," Montrose said. "There are no flying triangles."
So take Salla's claims with a grain of salt, and consider some of the other material you'll find at his website: The suggestion that Hurricane Irma may have been directed by space weapons, and books for sale that include a Salla title, The U.S. Navy's Secret Space Program and Nordic Extraterrestrial Alliance, whose cover shows a Navy officer shaking hands with a blonde-haired, Nordic-looking female "alien" in a skin-tight silver outfit.
This isn't the first time MacDill has been associated with aliens — or even the first time Salla figured into the association.
His website turns up in emails pilfered from the account of former Hillary Clinton advisor John Podesta, which were posted on the Wikileaks site and now are a subject of investigation into whether the Russians interfered with the presidential election.
On March 3, 2006, a man named Bob Fish emailed Podesta a link to Salla's website. Fish also included his own memories of talking with an Air Force electronics intelligence technician who claimed he flew RC-135 jets out of MacDill that were used for surveillance of Cuba but were sometimes diverted "to track UFOs off the east coast of Florida."
Fish said his source claimed the UFOs "had a landing and takeoff spot in the ocean east of Miami, north of Bermuda," a strange reference considering Bermuda is much closer to coastal cities in the Carolinas.
MacDill's association with UFOs also comes up in the famous Project Blue Book report by the Air Force, "relating to the investigations of unidentified flying objects" and now part of the National Archives.
According to an Air Force document drawn from the report, on June 5, 1961, an F-102 fighter jet was scrambled after witnesses spotted a star-shaped UFO in the skies near MacDill. The object, according to the document, had been on the base radar for several days.
"Aircraft reported contact but experienced (electronic countermeasure) trouble and could not complete intercept due to jamming," the document says.
Whether claims about MacDill UFOs today end up in any Project Blue Book of the future remains to be seen.
For now, with MacDill commands running operations across the war-torn Middle East and supporting commandos around the globe, they're a diversion that brings a few grins.
No new deaths were reported by the Pentagon last week in ongoing operations.
There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 43 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan; 38 troop deaths and two civilian deaths in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against the Islamic State; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; and one death under classified as other contingency operations as part of the global war on terrorism.
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.