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Here it is… the last day of the Global SOF Symposium. It’s hard to believe that the week has already passed us by, or that many of us haven’t stepped foot off of Grand Hyatt Tampa territory since Monday. But, as GSF COO Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew has said… we’re marking this week off in the WIN column.

The Past and the Future

For the last morning of the Symposium, GSF President Stu Bradin invited representatives of ALL of our Corporate Partners to a session called “The Future of the GSF.” In that session, he talked about our upcoming events, the ways Partners can take advantage of them, and even more–the ways that Corporate Partners should and can be taking advantage of the Foundation as a whole.

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

Stu is very “open kimono” when it comes to talking to our Partners and getting their feedback, since this is a Partner- and Member-run association. He gets deep into the details so he can get the “whys” and “hows” across, and hopefully it was a helpful session for everyone who attended.

Back down in the Ballroom, we opened the Symposium again with an impressive presentation from “Ranger Rick” Lamb. As he did the previous day, he arrived in a full and authentic WWII uniform. This one was from the 1st Special Service Force, a combined unit of Canadian and U.S. special operators that was active during WWII.

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

He welcomed to the stage our awesome Master of Ceremonies (MC) for the day– Mr. Harry “X” Xenitelis of GSF Small Business Partner – Tampa Microwave. As Rick said, “I don’t know how to pronounce his name,” so he’s lovingly referred to in our script as MC-X!

Multinational Panels and Multi-Flexible SOF Slams

MC-X brought the first panel to the stage, which would focus on SOF training in multinational operations, which is a huge topic among our Global SOF community.

The panel was led by Sergeant Major (Ret) Todd Wilhite, who served with the U.S. Army Special Forces from 1993 to 2014 with assignments at 5th and 3rd Special Forces Groups, among many other prestigious roles.

He was joined by Mr. James Emmert of NATO Special Operations Headquarters, Ms. Kristen Hajduk, Former Senior Policy Analyst for the U.S. DoD, Major General Kurt Sonntag, the Commanding General, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and Sergeant Major Tomasz Świerad, the Command Sergeant Major of Special Operations Command, Poland. What a team!

This group had a great discussion about how we as Partner Nations can train together to make us a more effective force against our enemies.

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

Next we were excited to invite Dr. Lisa Costa to the stage for a keynote. Dr. Costa is the Chief Information Officer at USSOCOM, running the “J6” Directorate there. She spoke today about the importance of technology, but even more important is how our people are able to use it.

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

“SOCOM is focused on making the operator cognitively stronger as opposed to physically stronger,” she said.

After a quick networking break in the Exhibit Hall, we moved into back-to-back SOF Slams. We often find when planning a Symposium that you need to be ready for last minute changes, and these sessions marked one of those moments.

Mr. Marcus Hays was slated to talk about the “Reinvention of the Wheel,” a cool look into the ways you can modernize something that we thought was already perfected! However, his flight was cancelled late last night… so he couldn’t make it! We’re hoping to save his Slam for another event soon.

Showcasing just how great our community is, even at the last minute we were able to find a replacement “Slammer”…Dr. James Canton swooped in and saved us with a presentation on “Future Tech Trends Impacting Global SOF”. Thank you, Sir!

Dr. Canton talked about “the five technologies that will change global security: nano, bio, info, neuro, and quantum,” elaborating on each–very interesting stuff!

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

The next Slammer went off as planned–Dr. David Kilcullen joined us to talk about Megacities and Urban Warfare. In his talk he said that special warfare today is really “resistance warfare,” and finding ways to “support, counter, enable, or sponsor it.” He said that resistance warfare is becoming increasingly urban, and that “it becomes decisive when it affects cities…which we must think of as a system, not as another form of terrain.”

One attendee said during lunch that they were really successful sessions, and that she was impressed by how well they complemented one another–especially when one was last minute!

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

(Thanks to Nick  Baxter from our Sustaining Partner Airbus for the photo credits when Chelsea couldn’t be in the room!)

And Chelsea wasn’t in the room often–not because of how lazy she is, but because she was doing things like conducting video interviews and recording new episodes for the GSF’s SOFspot podcast… such as the one they did on this final day featuring Norway’s Magne Roedahl and of course–CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb! This one will be another cool jump into SOF history, so stay tuned for the release!

The Final Stretch!

Lunch was a yummy Mediterranean buffet, which we all enjoyed over in the Exhibitor Pavilion. It was the last time there, so people ate and talked with the vendors to get their final bouts of business-card-trading and capability demos in!

We said good-bye to the Exhibit Hall and did our final walk down the SOF History Trail back to the Ballroom for the last two sessions, the first of which was a panel lead by the GSF VP, Dr. Keenan Yoho. Dr. Yoho’s panel was focused on the “The Nexus of Law Enforcement in Modern Warfare.”

He had a ton of experience on the stage, including Special Agent Joe Kipp for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drs Andy Kraag, a Chief Constable for The Netherlands’ National Police, Mr. Maurice Luxembourg, the Director of the Narcotics National Criminal Investigations Service for The Netherlands’ National Police, and Ms. Zorka Martinovich, formerly of the Crisis Negotiation Unit for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

They talked in detail about drug trafficking across the globe, with Mr. Luxembourg noting that “we sometimes find that organized crime is way ahead of us, which is why we’re partnering with more law enforcement organizations to counter that.” They also talked about the impacts of the changing world, including the more recent introductions of things like cryptocurrency adding new complications.

Ultimately, they agreed that the universal rule is “knowing each other” and working to restructure law enforcement into more communicative and cross-collaborative teams.

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

The final speaker of the week was Vice Admiral Tim Szymanski, the Deputy Commander of USSOCOM. He talked about many of the Command’s current initiatives, ranging from the “hyper-enabled” operator, the focus on mental/brain health, and the vision for the future.

Vice Admiral Szymanski said that there were three documents shaping that vision: 1) The Joint Thomas/West document, authored by USSOCOM Commander General Tony Thomas and Assistant SECDEF Owen West, 2) SOCOM’s Future Operating Concept, and 3) the SOF Experimental Framework. He stayed after his session ended to talk to some of the non-U.S. representatives in attendance (from over 20 Nations)!

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

Coffee Rum and Southern Rock

The for “real real” last event of the week was hosted by Purple Monkey Garage, a company that Stu met at SHOT Show in January. Their reps wanted to put on an educational session and reception, and since we had the spaces for the full day we figured…. Why not?!

The educational part of the event was called “Strategies for Success” and featured speaker Josh Tolley, who gives companies guidance on success and effective branding. He’s a great speaker, and we definitely have a lot to think about after his session.

The reception brought more education… about rum! Kavana Rum came and brought three their three very smooth flavors: silver, gold, and java! Gold seemed to be the universal fan favorite, but the Java was also a hit, especially to the coffee lovers in the room.

Blackbird Anthem is a Florida Southern Rock Band, and after we had all warmed up a little from the rum sampling, they started rocking the room with their original songs and classic covers. The music had Eileen Parise, long-time friend of the GSF, dancing across the room…just don’t tell the doctor who performed her foot surgery! 😉

2019 GSS-US, Day 3: The Importance of Knowing Each Other

Thanks to all of these groups for adding some flair to the final evening of the reception!

Signing Off…for Now!

The feedback we’ve received from attendees has been really encouraging. Overall, everyone was excited about the new venue and impressed with the increasing diversity of our crowd. As one long-time attendee said, it’s obvious that this event has transitioned from just being Stu Bradin’s individual network to a thriving international group focused on SOF issues.

Thank you all so much for attending, and we look forward to seeing you at our SOFIC reception in May.

See all of the photos from the day here!

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