Special Operations Forces Week comes together to build partnerships

By: Michael Bottoms - USSOCOM Public Affairs - 5/14/2024

  • Gen. Bryan Fenton, commander U.S. Special Operations Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Shane Shorter, command senior enlisted leader give opening remarks to Special Operations Forces Week 2024 in downtown Tampa, Florida, May 7. Special Operations Forces Week is the premier gathering for the SOF community and industry, bringing together more than 21,000 attendees, including representatives from more than 79 countries to collaborate on new initiatives and capabilities needed for SOF professionals to compete and win in the future. Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marleah Miller.
  • Melissa A. Johnson, the acquisition executive for USSOCOM, who is responsible for over 1,000-plus personnel providing rapid and focused acquisition, technology, and logistics support to SOF gives a keynote speech. Special Operations Forces Week is the premier gathering for the SOF community and industry, bringing together more than 21,000 attendees, including representatives from more than 79 countries to collaborate on new initiatives and capabilities needed for SOF professionals to compete and win in the future. Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kaylee Clark.
  • An MH-6 “little bird” helicopter flies over Tampa Bay, Florida during a capabilities demonstration May 8, 2024. Special Operations Forces Week is the premier gathering for the SOF community and industry, bringing together more than 21,000 attendees, including representatives from more than 79 countries to collaborate on new initiatives and capabilities needed for SOF professionals to compete and win in the future. Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephan Patzer.

Delegates from more than 79 nations to include the King of Jordan Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein along with current and retired senior military leaders attended the Special Operations Forces Week, May 6-10, 2024, in Tampa, Florida.

The command's philosophy is people are SOF's competitive and comparative advantage. SOF attracts the most talented men and women who are driven to solve the most complex problems, in politically sensitive and contested environments. SOF wins by campaigning for integrated deterrence, strengthening our partnerships, conducting exquisite crisis response, countering violent extremism, and leading with creative, tailorable, and asymmetric options. Last, with a focus on ongoing transformation, SOF is accelerating its wide-ranging modernization efforts and leveraging its essential acquisition authorities that enable it to capitalize on our Nation's innovation ecosystem.

Gen. Bryan Fenton, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command and Command Sgt. Maj. Shane Shorter, command senior enlisted leader opened the international week.

“This week is a rare opportunity. To bring together a brilliant crowd of innovators in industry, academia, and national security, who are all ready to solve tough problems alongside the 1% of the 1% -- those of our international Special Operations community," said Fenton. “Your SOCOM Team is delivering asymmetric and asynchronous advantage and opportunities for our nation across the globe, alongside our allies and our partners, providing dilemmas and challenges for our adversaries."

With regard to the importance of partnerships, Shorter added, “Seabed to space, cyber to fiber, your SOCOM Team – fueled by the power of partnerships – is all about PEOPLE. The international SOF network gives us a unique lens into what is happening in the world and that helps us transform faster and get ahead in this complex world."

Throughout the week, international SOF commanders discussed ways to improve interoperability, increase lethality, and optimize how SOF sources global requirements and various training venues. SOF Week is a way for the global SOF community to meet, learn from each other and advance a coordinated effort to meet global security challenges.

Melissa A. Johnson, the acquisition executive for USSOCOM, who is responsible for over 1,000-plus personnel providing rapid and focused acquisition, technology, and logistics support to SOF also opened the conference.

“SOF AT&L is accelerating and increasing collaboration with the private capital investment ecosystem to share SOF's areas of interest and to identify viable pathfinders," said Johnson. “The relationship we share with our industry partners is vital to defeat a relentless enemy as we continue to revolutionize and deliver war winning capabilities to the field.  We owe this to the SOF warriors, our country, and our partner nations."

SOF Week provided the opportunity for USSOCOM personnel to network with defense industry professionals and government attendees. Attendees viewed the latest in SOF equipment and capabilities from more than 700 exhibitors with approximately 21,000 people in attendance.

Conference attendees from the global SOF Community were provided a unique opportunity to strengthen enduring relationships, share current technologies, enhance cooperation, and identify commonalities and challenges. These events supported USSOCOM's ongoing efforts to formalize and strengthen existing international network partnerships and engage with key stakeholder publics.

For the first time, USSOCOM hosted a special event for more than 200 high school students enrolled in local Junior ROTC programs. During the day the students were able to view the capabilities demonstration rehearsal, meet Medal of Honor recipient MSG (ret.) Earl Plumlee, tour the SOF Week exhibit hall and talk to college ROTC mentors and recruiters.

The capstone event of the week was a capabilities demonstration on May 8 that demonstrated the international special operations spirit of cooperation and abilities. Aside from U.S. Special Operations Forces, commandos from 10 countries conducted a scenario-based demonstration in the area surrounding the Tampa Convention Center to demonstrate the capabilities of multinational SOF cooperation.

The demonstration featured six-man teams on MH-6 “little bird" helicopters, an MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter dropping SEALs into Tampa Bay, a drone swarm, powered paragliders, special operators parachuting into the waters of Tampa Bay, and an AC-130 and a F-35 flyover providing close air support.

SOF Week is the premiere conference for the special operations community to interact with industry and collaborate on the challenges, initiatives and way-ahead in delivering the most cutting-edge capabilities to SOF operators.  The week provides educational sessions, demonstrations, interaction with exhibitors and many networking opportunities. The conference is the single most important opportunity for developing, nurturing, and exercising the growing network across industry, government, academia, and international partners.​

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