Don’t miss yesterday’s blog, covering Day 0 of the Symposium., and the rest of the blogs from this week:

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The 2019 Global SOF Symposium – US is officially kicked off! Yesterday’s opening day was special for a few reasons:

  1. We had our first Professional Development Day, which brought in 77 participants and covered 4 topics
  2. The Mayor of St. Pete brought us some sunshine
  3. We proved to people that Florida really CAN get cold
  4. The night is dark, but we can see… with Excelitas!

First. Ever. Professional Development Day.

We try to make sure our events have as much value as possible for attendees, so this year was the first time we had a full-on Professional Development Day.

The reason we say “full-on” is because we have always had a SOF for Life Seminar, which is a form of professional development. These seminars are focused on Special Operators or SOF supporters who are leaving, or recently left, active duty military service. These sessions are focused on the challenging transition from military to civilian life, and they are all about finding meaningful careers after the active duty.

The SOF for Life Seminar this year was hosted by the COMMIT Foundation, a new friend of the GSF that we are excited to have on the team. GSF President Stu Bradin popped in the room for a minute and ran out with a huge grin on his face. “She is making those guys WORK,” he exclaimed, noting that it was an extremely interactive course. We hope it was value-added for all of the transitioning attendees!

2019 GSS-US, Day 1: Chillin’ with our Network

As we said, this was the first year that we built upon the SOF for Life Seminar…we had more sessions that any of our Symposium attendees could go to at no additional cost. They were:

  • The Changing Cybersecurity Workforce, hosted by our Academic Partner Norwich University. Norwich reps told us they had a GREAT afternoon and really enjoyed the session.
  • Innovation through Inclusive Leadership, hosted by the PROMOTE Foundation. PROMOTE is a very cool organization that is helping SOF-focused commands and units leverage their diverse cultures. You’ll be able to learn more about them soon, because we also recorded a SOFspot Podcast with them while they were here!
  • General Acquisition Overview & Industry Basics, hosted by the Defense Acquisition University. This session was the most popular with 30 participants eager to brush up on their DoD acquisition knowledge.
2019 GSS-US, Day 1: Chillin’ with our Network
Meaghan listening carefully (while Chelsea…doesn’t) as we record a SOFspot Podcast with the PROMOTE Foundation.

We’re excited to continue growing on “ProDev” day in the future, and even adding more sessions to other Symposium events!

Immediately Building the Network

The weather was a little chilly for the Floridians. Ok, it was chilly for everyone. Ok, the Commander of Bulgarian SOF told us that it was currently warmer in his home country. But hey, we still had a great evening of networking!

After a day of travel and learning, we focused on some hospitality and making our guests feel welcome. The Chairman’s Reception, which was held on the hotel Promenade, was only open to GSF Corporate Partners. Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew, the GSF COO and proud resident of St. Petersburg, FL, introduced the Reception’s speaker: the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Mr. Rick Kriseman. She noted that while it may seem a little odd to have the Mayor of St. Pete speak in Tampa, the two cities work extremely well together–just as many of our joint SOF from Partner Nations do!

2019 GSS-US, Day 1: Chillin’ with our Network

Mayor Kriseman gave great remarks, thanking SOF for their service to America, and he even had the sun shining through the clouds as he reminded us to come visit him in lovely “St. Pete.”

Oystercatchers, the Hyatt’s waterfront restaurant, was a short walk from the Promenade along a peaceful natural trail. This is a great place to catch a colorful Tampa sunset (although it was a little cloudy yesterday, so we could only see a glimmer) and was also the venue of the Waterfront Welcome Reception, which we were honored to have sponsored by two DC-based GSF Small Business Partners: Barbaricum and Victor42.

At previous events, we put more emphasis on the Closing Night receptions, but we realized for this year that it’s more important to put that “oomph” into the Opening event. Everyone is fresher, more interested in meeting one another, and relationships launched on Day 1 have more time to grow over the full Symposium.

2019 GSS-US, Day 1: Chillin’ with our Network

There was a guitar player, some yummy food, and plenty of beverages to keep the conversations and introductions flowing!

Introducing the Tech

The evening reception also marked the first time attendees could get their hands on some actual cool SOF gear. Excelitas Technologies, a GSF Corporate Partner, brought some of their night vision optics to the Waterfront Welcome Reception for some demos.

Down along the dock adjacent to the reception, you could find a table with both short and long range goggles. Demo participants could then look out far and catch cars zipping across the Howard Frankland Bridge, or look closer into the mangroves, water, and beach.

Speaking of tech, many of the reception’s industry attendees had spent much of the day setting up their own demo stations in the Exhibitor Pavilion or Exhibitor Foyer. That’s right folks, this year we have TWO locations at which you can check out the exhibiting gear.

2019 GSS-US, Day 1: Chillin’ with our Network
Setup day! Exhibitors setting up in the pavilion and the Ballroom getting setup for General Sessions.

The Exhibitor Pavilion is a little roomier (OK, it’s a HUGE tent), allowing for larger booths or displays and is also going to house coffee breaks, both the Wednesday and Thursday lunches, and the Wednesday Night Exhibit Hall Reception.

The Foyer is located directly outside of the General Sessions, allowing for smaller tabletop displays. You can see all of the Exhibitors who will be showcasing this week here.

The SOF History Trail

Having two exhibit locations does mean that there is a bit of a walk in between the two spots, so we’ve added a “SOF History Trail.” The trail holds a few signs with some estimated step counts from historic SOF missions–and some reminders that many of these steps were taken in the dark, up-hill, under fire, and with heavy packs.

The signs along the trail provide short explanations of the missions, and you can get more information about all of them in the Whova App. Even better, most of these were provided by our on-staff “historian,”  U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame Inductee CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb (#RangerRick). You can see his brief renditions of the stories, as well as links to longer articles from web resources.

2019 GSS-US, Day 1: Chillin’ with our Network
CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb preparing for the next day’s opening session.

Rick has a few more historical tricks up his historical sleeves (you’ll see) for us over the next couple of days… we strongly recommend that you don’t miss the opening morning sessions…

Looking to Today

Yesterday might have been the “first” day, but today is the real “first” day (don’t check our math). We’re pretty excited about it… especially events like the “Operator’s Kit” panel lead by Rick Lamb, and of course, our annual GSF Lifetime Achievement Award presentation. This year’s recipient is The Honorable Jim Locher, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD SO/LIC).

We’ll see you there!


See the photos album from today and feel free to tag yourselves.

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