In the words of our newest employee, Ranae Grehl: “This has been a whirlwind.”
Along with the rest of the world, we’re closely monitoring the COVID 19 pandemic while still trying to maintain whatever sense of normalcy that we can. But as we’re sure most people understand–it hasn’t been business as usual.
This week we did what we could to stay healthy while still keeping up with our 2020 timeline!
The European “Czech In”
Our European Symposium is still scheduled for 5-7 OCT 2020 in Warsaw, Poland. We do a lot of planning virtually, but some things are better discussed or seen in person, so we sent Ranae and our President Stu Bradin over to Eastern Europe late last week.
And since they were already heading to Poland, they decided to stop in another potential GSOF – Europe location: Prague, Czech Republic, which we’re working to lock down for the 2021 Symposium.
There were quite a few meetings to fit into a short window, and with the added precautions for COVID 19 not everything went exactly according to plan… but it was still a productive stop!
They met with the Deputy MOD “Dude for Industry,” as Stu called him, which we’re sure is a pretty rough translation but still gets the point across. They explained the purpose and requirements for a Global SOF Symposium in Europe and said that the Czech team ended up with a lot of notes and positive remarks.
Unfortunately, their meeting with the Vice Chief of Staff, LTG Zuna, was canceled due to the coronavirus and some national decrees that had been issued in the Czech Republic that day. We’re still keeping up comms with the leadership there, and we’ll keep you posted on any confirmations for our Fall 2021 Symposium!
Ranae also met with our Program Manager from Clarion Events, Tracy, to check out some potential venues. They went to three different sites (one of which had an interesting carnival in its courtyard) and liked Congress Hall the best.
Overall we expect Prague to be a great location and we hope we’ll be able to host you all there in 2021!
The Emergency Exfil
Since we did have boots on the ground in Europe, we wanted to share Stu’s perspective on what they saw there during this tumultuous time.
I have only been here 24 hours but the coronavirus is freaking people out. They have around 15,000 Czechs in northern Italy on any given day (mainly skiing and working) and they have now shut the borders to ALL of Italy – not just the north.
My cab driver this morning said that this is normally their busiest time of the year and I was the only ride he had. The hotels are empty, restaurants are empty, and people seem to be staying home.
Disconcerting to say the least! Stu and Ranae still followed through with the next two stages of their journey:
Krakow, Poland was stop number one in Poland, where they went to meet with Polish SOF to discuss the upcoming Symposium and work through logistics. It was a good meeting, but Ranae and Stu’s picture of a street at night could be better… this is what happens when you leave the millennials behind! 🙂
Warsaw, Poland is the actual location of the Symposium, so they hopped on the train there next to check out the event venue–the Warsaw Marriott. Stu also had a meeting with Dr. Krolikowski, the Director of the Department of Defense Analysis for Poland.
But the trip in Warsaw was cut short! On Wednesday night, President Trump announced a ban on travel incoming from Europe and Ranae and Stu decided it was time for an emergency exfil!
Luckily they were able to get a flight the next day…. EARLY the next day. They hit the airport at 3 AM, took one last picture with their Adventure Flag, and headed back to the U.S…
Keeping the Ball Rolling in Tampa
Several members of our stateside team–Meaghan (COO), Steve (Dir. of Partner Relations), and Chelsea (Dir. of Marketing)–were actually sitting together watching the news when the word on the European travel ban came through. So we put a pin on the conversations we were having with Eric Shaw, our Small Business Committee Chair and rep. From Axiologic Solutions, to call our travelers and make sure they were getting home safely. Check!
Steve, who typically mans our “Beltway Branch,” was with us in Florida for a few reasons!
First off, he and our Membership Services Manager Catlyn Smith went to the PALT at PEO-STRI in Orlando. They had a solid group of 12 join them for lunch afterwards, which included a few “newbies” to our network, which we always love to see!
Steve also attended GovCon Tampa, where he was able to connect with some of our Partners from Lukos, Axiologic Solutions, and the Small Business reps for SOCOM!
Not to be outdone, Rick Lamb, our Dir. of Government Relations, also made an outing to the NDIA Tampa Networking Breakfast, featuring Mr. Jim Smith from SOF AT&L. There he saw, and we quote: “A lot of our peeps!” From CSM Rich Holman to our friends from industry, he got to talk about last month’s Imperatives Forum and our upcoming events in Tampa and USASOC.
But as he later lamented: he failed to capture any photo ops! But we forgive him because he came up with this historic reenactment photo last week at Fort MacKall:
Ranger Rick for the win!
What Will the Future Bring?
Like you all, we’re not entirely certain what the next few months will bring. We are moving forward with all of our events as scheduled at this point, but we are keeping an eye on SOFIC 2020 in May. If that event is cancelled or postponed, our Annual Tampa Reception will likely follow suit.
We’re staying optimistic, but making contingency plans for a variety of scenarios. We hope to see everyone soon, but remember you can stay engaged with us through our blog (hey, you’re here already) and our SOFspot podcast!
Stay safe…stay healthy… and of course, wash your hands!