One of the more awesome aspects of being affiliated with SOFREP is being sent to events like SOF Week and being told to “Have at it and report back to the readers.” 

This wasn’t exactly an easy show to get into. I was credentialed as media for the event last year and have held all sorts of security clearances in my career, and still, it took me 13 days to get my “all access” media credentials. Fortunately you don’t have to wait at all, just read on and take a vicarious journey with me to the Tampa Convention Center.

Trains, Busses and Ubers

It took a bus trip, two train rides, and a bunch of Uber trips, but I got there. For a while, I was afraid I was going to have to ride a donkey for the last leg of the trip.  But I got to Tampa, and now I’m back and ready to spill the beans about what I saw and learned. It was cool, damn cool…so stay tuned.

Before you read any further, please look at the first picture in this article. The one with the open door with the big sign above them that reads “SOF Week.” Check out the vertical sign to the immediate left of the wooden doors; note that the last item there reads, “Capability Accelerator Rally Point.” I read that and didn’t know WTF it meant, but I knew that was the first place this old soldier was headed.

I went to the RP, had my capabilities suitably accelerated by classified means, and was good to go for the rest of the show. Well…It’s not exactly a show, per se… So just what is SOF Week? Glad you asked. I’ll get to that shortly.

Akek. The world’s best backpack/rucksack, hands down. Image by the author.

I wasn’t kidding about the bus and train I took to get there. Too close to my home to fly, and the car was tied up that week. I could not take a suitcase with the tickets I got, so I packed everything I needed for one week into my trusty rucksack from our friends at Akek. Mine is the Alpha 3200, and  I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you about it.

Technically, it’s a hunting backpack, but I wasn’t doing any hunting on this trip, so I’ll call it a ruck. And a hell of a ruck it is, only a little over five pounds empty with a real carbon fiber frame. Ultra-thick padded straps to help shoulder the load of chinos, polo shirts, a laptop, and lots of business cards. Oh, and Combos. Pizza Combos are my “on the road” junk food snack of choice.

Oh, what is SOF Week? For starters, it used to be called SOFIC, and it’s pretty much the same deal. SOF Week is a national convention for US special operations forces (although there were operators from all over the globe). The event is co-sponsored by US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the Global Special Operations Forces Foundation in Tampa. There were tons of professional development sessions given by top SOF leadership, smaller operator-driven discussions, and a few family-focused meetings. SOCOM is finally becoming family-friendly.