As we prepare for our European events, it’s necessary for us to do site visits, during which we also try to schedule other meetings and engagements that help us stay attuned to the SOF environment in our Partner Nations in Europe. I embarked on such a trip last week and I wanted to share some of my insights.

A GSF Euro-TourHe brought two representatives from GSF Corporate Partner CTL-SystemWare along, as they requested some introductions in the region. CTL-SystemWare worked hard to get their kit through the ITAR process and they are making a major effort to enter the global market. Throughout the trip, they were able to conduct a few demos of their capabilities to local stakeholders. I sat through the demos and I can tell you that the organizations they met with were more than interested in the capability they provide. I am not sure the international market will be, but right now it is untapped and CTL-SystemWare is pressing to gain market share outside the US.

The trip began in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Lithuanian SOF was celebrating their 10th Anniversary. I  attend the festivities and was able to reconnect with some of the people who were crucial in planning the 2016 Global SOF Symposium – Europe in Vilnius, Lithuania.

A GSF Euro-Tour

The celebration of a decade of Lithuanian SOF was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that included a theatrical interpretation of Lithuania’s defense history, leading up to the development of Special Operations. We especially like their 10 year anniversary logo–who doesn’t like a flaming sword? I do not think people can fully appreciate how far and how fast Lithuanian SOF has come. Lithuanian SOF is their 4th service and their growth has been unmatched. They are solid partners contributing to global operations and they are steadily growing.  

A GSF Euro-Tour

After Lithuania, we flew to Poland, where we linked up with Chris Hutchinson–a friend andconsultant in Eastern Europe. We started in Warsaw, where we discussed the SOF environment in Poland, and from there I took a train down to Krakow for a meeting with POLSOF. I sent pictures of the snow back to the stateside staff of the GSF, reminding us all why we like living in Florida!

A GSF Euro-Tour

For the fourth stop on the trip, I headed to Brussels, where he linked up with the GSF Chief Operating Officer, Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew!

Meaghan and I were there to conduct a site survey–she’s a little more versed on the requirements for facilities, catering, and other logistics when it comes to our Symposium events. We are currently planning for a 2019 event in Brussels, Belgium, and we had a long list of potential venues to check out. Meaghan went right from the plane into action–sleep is a dangerous recipe for jetlag!

A GSF Euro-Tour

Over three days, we visited NINE different venues, from the castle-like Chateau du Luc to the more traditional Square Conference Center. There were three standout venues.

Le Plaza may be our top contender. It has a unique theater-style event space and updated guests rooms, is located close to the train station, and had an extremely helpful event planner.

Steigenberger’s Wiltcher’s, while more of a mouthful, was in the middle of some exciting renovations and right by a cool reception venue–Spirito Brussels. Spirito Brussels is an old church that has been converted into an event space, and it felt like a great option for a Closing Reception!

The last venue with some potential was Crowne Plaza, which had plenty of space and plenty of history. It also has a good floor plan to incorporate exhibits, breakout space, and up to 400 people in the general sessions.

A GSF Euro-TourIn addition to the many site visits (Brussels has an exciting array of options!), we spent some time enjoying the local cuisine (see Meaghan showing off her “mussels”, right) and met with some of our regional POCs.

They had some very supportive talks with representatives from the European Union and NATO, as well as a good dinner with Lithuania’s Saulius Guzevicius, a panelist at several GSF events who is currently working in Strategic Communication at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Winter’s refusal to leave the U.S. delayed Meaghan’s return by a day. However, it was a very productive trip, and we’re looking forward to returning to Europe in September for our Madrid Symposium!

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