MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Imagine it’s the year 1944, being an 18 or 19-year-old kid preparing to engage in what is likely their first experience of war, being in an unfamiliar part of the world, where odds of survival are minimal.
For the brave men of American, British and Canadian forces during World War II, this was their reality as they stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, June 6, in what is known as D-Day.
To honor those brave men, their sacrifices and selflessness, U.S. Special Operations Command designed an annual event that challenges participants physically and mentally to resemble, on a small scale, the adversities faced during the largest amphibious attack in history.
“The intent is not to face the same challenges that were faced by the greatest generation, but to honor them through a small bit of their undertaking,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Matt Parish, USSOCOM Headquarters 1st Sergeant. “Those competing are able to put themselves in the mindset of a young adult storming the beach, overcoming obstacles and fighting through adversity.”
The event, known as the SOCOM D-Day Memorial Shoot, took place at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, June 1, 2018.
Participants began the day at 6:00 a.m. in front of the Special Operations Memorial, where event coordinators shared the history of D-Day. From there, everyone made their way to the docks to load up by team on a combat rubber raiding craft for a simulated beach invasion.
The boats were driven to the beach on base where the participants jumped out, ran through the water and stormed the beach, to echo the D-Day beach landing itself.
Next, participants ran through several obstacles in the sand, evacuated a simulated casualty while running half a mile to the shooting range for the final obstacles and shooting challenges.
“Last year was the first year that SFC Mike Laleman, our SOCOM Training NCO, started including obstacles within the event to simulate obstacles encountered on D-Day, although on a much smaller scale,” said Parrish. “Also, this was the first year we added a boat ride and a beach landing to the event.”
Sixteen teams participated in this year’s event. They were made up of joint forces members from various units throughout MacDill and expanded all the way out to the Clearwater Police Department.
“I think that SOCOM leadership did an impeccable job at putting together an event that commemorates all those brave warriors involved in such an important part of our history,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Craig Webster, J1 Operations Sergeant Major with USSOCOM. “They did a great job not only highlighting the Special Operation Forces equities of Rangers at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, but by also highlighting the importance of joint teams and how working together can accomplish the hardest endeavors.”
The event concluded in the early afternoon with lunch and an awards ceremony.
“SOCOM greatly appreciates the support we’ve received from other units within MacDill AFB and the surrounding communities,” Parrish said gratefully. “Having the Clearwater Police Department, Pinellas County SWAT team and other units on MacDill participate in this event, serves to build a greater sense of community and teamwork towards a common goal.”