Without a doubt, the fastest growing sector in SOF is aviation. The SOF land and maritime forces have grown and become more interoperable, but due to the cost and complexity of SOF aviation, many nations are just now developing their aviation capabilities.
In an effort to ensure nations can collaborate on the development and growth of their SOF aviation, the Global SOF Foundation is hosting the 1st annual Special Air Warfare Symposium (SAWS) at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, from 22 – 24 February 2022.
Whether you’re a current or former special aviator, in the defense industry, an aviation-focused academic, or just looking for a valid excuse to network with the community in-person…we have a reason (or 10!) for you to join us.
So read on for our top 10 reasons to join us at the Special Air Warfare Symposium (aka SAWS)!
Top 10 Reasons to Attend SAWS
Reason 10: You can get actual, human, face-to-face time.
Life has certainly been turbulent (aviation pun #1) throughout the COVID19 pandemic, and one consistent inconsistency has been in-person events.
Through the past two years, there has been a lot of on-again, off-again when it comes to events, and while it’s certainly not the biggest impact of this pandemic, it has been a stressor for event planners, hosts, and attendees alike. We at the Foundation are starting to get event postponement and virtual events down to a depressing science.
That’s why we’re always so excited when we DO get to have an in-person event, and we find that our attendees are always pretty pumped about it, too. As routine and capable as virtual meetings have become, they just don’t take the place of the value of that face-to-face engagement.
Reason 9: It’s taking place in the beautiful Florida Panhandle.
It’s pretty common knowledge that Florida has some nice beaches. But the east and west coasts (the pan?) get a lot more tourism and press than the panhandle. It’s a little more remote without any really large metropolitan areas, but for that reason… the beaches are amazing!
While it may not be beach weather (although it is Florida, so maybe it will!), you can’t beat an escape to Florida beach scenery in the middle of winter.
So bring your friends or your family along and stay an extra weekend on either side of the Symposium! At Global SOF, we’re always happy to help folks find a good work / life / fun balance.
Reason 8: There are unique opportunities for brand exposure.
A big reason that we do these Symposium events is to bring together the elite crews (pun #2) of the military and industry to ensure that we get the best capabilities possible in the hands of our warfighters.
One way we enable our top industry partners to get exposure at our events is through Sponsorships. We offer a variety of ways for companies to get their logos front and center at SAWS, from sponsoring lanyards to coffee cups to signage.
Plus, every sponsor contribution makes the event more memorable and exciting–and attendees are much more likely to remember a company that added to the fun…or bought them a cool bag. 🙂
Reason 7: We have professional development opportunities.
On the first day of the Symposium (22 FEB) we’re hosting a variety of short Professional Development opportunities. These are there to set the tone of the event and provide our government and military representatives with some unique learning opportunities.
Here’s a quick rundown of the sessions we have planned…some touch on the same themes with different speakers to allow more access to these important topics:
- Pro-dev Session 1 – The Birth of U.S. Special Operations Command with The Honorable Jim Locher
- Pro-dev Session 2 – The Fourth Age of SOF: The Use and Utility of Special Operations Forces in a New Age with Dr. Isaiah Wilson III and Mr. Will Irwin (Joint Special Operations University)
- Pro-dev Session 3 – Battling the Bureaucracy: Integration of Today’s US AF/Army SOF Aviation with COL (Ret) Keith Nightingale
- Pro-dev Session 4 – Lessons from the Global War on Terror with CMSgt (Ret.) Matt Caruso, Colonel (Ret.) Travis Hill, CMSgt (Ret.) Bruce Dixon, CMSgt (Ret.) William C. Markham
- Pro-dev Session 5 – Fourth Age of SOF and Ethical Leadership, Dr. Joseph Long (Joint Special Operations University)
(Due to space constraints, these opportunities are only open to active members of the Military or Civilian Government Service.)
Reason 6: There’s a unique industry matchmaking opportunity.
For our industry brothers and sisters… don’t worry, you have something special planned for YOU on the 22nd, as well!
We’ve teamed up with the folks at GovMates to put on an industry matchmaking session! Matchmaking aims to create matches between large businesses and/or government agencies (“buyers”) and small businesses (“sellers”) for the pursuit of government contracts.
All small businesses who choose to participate in matchmaking will be asked to create a profile for matchmaking participation, which takes no more than 15 minutes. While creating this profile, key information is collected from participants and algorithms are used to determine the best possible match with large businesses.
Let’s just say it’s a smart way to find some new… wingmen? (pun #3, you get it)
All small businesses receive a schedule of their matchmaking sessions. All buyers (aka large businesses and government representatives) receive a schedule of their matchmaking sessions, as well as profiles of all the small businesses with whom they will be meeting.
You MUST sign up for this opportunity in advance to participate, so make sure you select “Matchmaking Session” when you register so that you can get the follow-up info.
Reason 5: There’s a SOF for Life Transition Seminar for those leaving active duty.
SOF for Life is a platform of mutually supporting and networked non-governmental programs that enable special operations personnel transitioning from military service to civilian employment.
As always, we have pulled in our SOF for Life partners from The Honor Foundation to run a transition seminar for active duty SOF who are leaving active duty in +/- two years (and spouses can attend, too!).
The seminar is an abridged look at their longer, 12-week transition course, and will give attendees:
- A clear understanding of what motivates you and Why. Why is not about making money–that’s a result. Why is a purpose, cause, or belief. It’s the very reason you exist. Once you can clearly articulate your Why, things become more clear throughout transition.
- A simple way to pitch yourself, your experience, and your overall value proposition.
- The secret to discovering the right transition coach and mentor, which can be the difference between finding your dream job and living a nightmare.
- Ways to connect with others efficiently, effectively, and meaningfully during your transition.
The Seminar is happening on the 22 and 23 FEB and requires a separate sign up here. Seats are limited, so don’t delay (a sadly popular flight term these days…)!
Reason 4: You can check out the latest tech and capabilities at the Expo.
One of the two main events on 23 and 24 FEB is the Special Air Warfare Expo, which is a showcase of over 50 members of industry with ties to Special Ops Aviation.
Some of the included companies so far include big names in the industry, such as Bell, Leidos, MAG Aerospace, and Expedition Aviation.
But we also look forward to seeing some organizations that are newer to the community, like StartGuides, Blue Light, and Digital Force Technologies. See all of our exhibitors listed here.
There’s still space available in the Expo, although we expect it to sell out quickly over the next month. We have the flexibility to accommodate both indoor and outdoor spaces of various sizes, so make sure you check out the Prospectus for the options.
Reason 3: We’ll be in the hub of US SOF Aviation.
Have we mentioned that Ft. Walton Beach, Florida is the home of US Air Force Special Operations Command aka AFSOC?
Our venue is about equidistant from Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base and the area is full of Active Duty and Veteran Special Operations Aviators and Enablers–from Son Tay Raiders of Vietnam to junior members of AFSOC.
You can feel the legacy and heritage of the local military all over this small beachfront town.
Plus, the proximity to so many Air Force and Army units enables relatively easy attendance for any of our military brothers and sisters who want to come take part in the event!
Reason 2: The Symposium will feature leaders in SOF, aviation, industry, and more!
We mentioned the Expo as one main event on 23 and 24 FEB… and the other is the Special Air Warfare Symposium itself!
If you look at the agenda, you will see that this will provide a great opportunity for the SOF aviation community to come together and hear from big leaders in the industry.
A sampling of the event speakers includes, but is not limited to:
- General Daniel Zmeko, Chief of Defense – Slovak Republic
- Lt. Gen. James Slife, Commander – USAFSOC
- LTG (Ret) In Bum Chun, Former Commander – SOF, Republic of Korea
- BG Philip J. Ryan, Commander – USASOAC
- Col. Jocelyn Schermerhorn, Commander – 1st SOW
- CMSgt Greg Smith, Senior Enlisted Leader – USSOCOM
- CMSgt Cory M. Olson, Senior Enlisted Leader – USAFSOC
- Col. (Ret) Alvin Drew, NASA
- Ms. Leslie Babich, Director – SOFWERX
Reason 1: You’ll have many opportunities to network with around 400 attendees, around 50% of whom will be active military or government!
While we can’t expect pre-pandemic numbers, we are optimistic based on our 2021 Tampa and Poland Symposiums, that we will get around 400 attendees at SAWS. With the large local military population (and FREE cost for military to attend), we are hopeful that the crown will be around 40-50% military and government.
We are also expecting a small but mighty international contingent in attendance! We do expect that COVID restrictions might still impact some of our Partner Nations who would have otherwise traveled in for the event. However, we don’t think it will stop everyone and we hope that many of our international Liaison Officers currently stationed in America will join us.
No matter what, whoever joins us will have ample opportunity to network… from our poolside Welcome Reception to the Expo Hall Receptions to lunches to breakfasts to coffee breaks. It’s going to be a great opportunity to expand your SOF network!
We know everyone is extremely busy at this time of year, but our Global SOF Team is excited about this Symposium and Expo.
The one thing that is certain is that there is a lot of uncertainty in the world, and SOF aviation will be a critical component to the use of Special Operations! We hope you can join us thi February!