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More than 100 international students receive training annually at MacDill AFB

8 On Your Side

TAMPA (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side Investigates has new information about the number of international students who typically train out of MacDill Air Force Base. We have been investigating the vetting of these foreign nationals in the wake of the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

According to new data released by United States Special Operations Command, 237 international students received classroom training at Joint Special Operations University’s MacDill campus in 2019.

There were 166 foreign students in 2018 and 237 students were on base in 2017.

Joint Special Operations international students

The number of international students who received classroom training at Joint Special Operations University’s MacDill campus in 2017 to 2019 are below. Over 80 percent of JSOU’s international students are taught outside the US in their home or a partner country.

Source: U.S. Special Operations Command

Most students attend one to two-week courses conducted in small classes spread out over the year, according to Ken McGraw, the Public Affairs Officer at Special Operations.

8 On Your Side Investigates spoke with retired Lt. Colonel Scott Mann about the potential threat posed by partner forces.

“We rely heavily on our partner forces across the world to deal with violent extremists threats,” said retired Lt. Colonel Scott Mann.

“We have to understand that insurgents have been using this tactic for decades.”

The Pensacola gunman, Mohammed Alshamrani, was a member of the Saudi Royal Air Force. The 21-year-old was training to be a pilot. Authorities say he opened fire killing three sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola earlier this month.

The Department of Defense tells 8 On Your Side Investigates, Alshamrani was one of 5,181 international students currently training on American soil. Some lawmakers, including Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, have called for a review of the program that trains foreign nationals at U.S. Military bases.

Lt. Colonel Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret, served nearly 18 years in the US Army Special Forces. He’s worked with partner forces from Central America to the Middle East.

“What’s happened here is the migration of a technique that we call an insider threat and it’s actually been occurring over in Afghanistan for a while,” said LTC Mann.

“That is a cause for serious concern but not overreaction.”

LTC Mann says we should allow military leaders to look for tactics, techniques, and procedures to mitigate the threat. However, he believes the program that brings foreign nations to U.S. bases should remain.

“The risk posed by partner forces is minuscule compared to other violent extremist threats,” said LTC Mann.

Meantime, McGraw stated that Special Operations Command cannot release a breakdown of the foreign student’s countries.

8 On Your Side Investigates will continue to follow developments.

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