Assembling the Team in Madrid
We’ve talked about it for a year… and now it’s finally happening. The Global SOF Symposium – Europe has kicked off in Madrid, Spain!
The Symposium is bringing in attendees from over 30 Nations, so many folks had to do some extensive traveling to get here. The GSF team all had to “hop across the pond” from Florida and DC to Spain. It actually went pretty smoothly, despite some emergency trips to the passporting office and our typical caravan of large sign containers and suitcases.
As we all arrived on Sunday and Monday, we were excited to start seeing more familiar faces than unfamiliar–especially being as far from home as Madrid. GSF Partners, Members, and friends were spotted in town, strolling the hotel, or stopping by our work room.
Like with all of our events, it was an immediate “family reunion” of the SOF community variety.
Setting the Scene
We had the chance to enjoy Madrid and do some site surveys on Sunday, but Monday brought us right back into work mode. Within an hour we had the GSF signage assembled, so the workroom started to feel like home pretty quickly.
The Expo Hall was also built on Monday, and we aren’t too proud to say that it looks pretty good! The 30+ Exhibitors had options to brand and decorate their kiosks, making
it one of our best looking Exhibit Halls to date. The location is also ideal–in the Foyer outside of the ballrooms, allowing attendees to naturally stop by to visit vendors in between events.
The GSF Team worked from the morning until we were told we needed to leave the Executive Lounge that night. There’s always some level of controlled chaos, but things went pretty well and had us ready to open Registration dark-and-early at 0700 the next day.
The first ever EU/NATO Joint SOF Seminar
As expected with a military crowd, the registration desk was flooded early with the participants of the first gathering of the EU and NATO SOF representatives in a formal setting. We planned the event expecting around 60 participants, but were pleasantly surprised to check-in around 120 attendees.
The Seminar featured no less than 11 different presentations, so there was a broad variety of topics discussed ranging from EU Current and Future Ops, to more specific presentations on NSHQ Support to Pre-Deployment Training.
“It was great and focused on very interesting topics,” said one participant from Romanian SOF.
Another attendee from the NATO SOF HQ planning team also deemed the meeting a great success, noting that he really enjoyed the panel discussion on “Enabling Innovation in SOF.”
This Seminar was definitely a value-added to its participants, and we hope to continue and improve upon it at upcoming events.
GXP hosted an excellent interactive Workshop
Since the EU/NATO Seminar was only open to government and active duty invitees, GSF Sustaining Partner BAE Systems jumped on the opportunity to host their first ever Geospatial eXploitation Products (aka GXP) workshop at a GSF event. It included hands-on demonstrations and use case scenarios for their technologies.
Around 15 attendees participated in this free, add-on activity, and BAE Systems reps were very
happy with their interest. One attendee was the GSF liaison in Spain, and he said it was an extremely worthwhile experience.
The BAE Systems’ GXP ensures the safety and security of critical infrastructure through advanced operational planning and incident response, establishing a Common Operating Picture for both field personnel and central command. If you missed the workshop, you can learn more about the products here.
Mr. Jim Youker of BAE Systems said that the “event was terrific and the beginning of a new way to add value for attendees.” They are looking forward to building on this and hosting more workshops at future GSF events.
The “Real” Welcome: The Reception
You aren’t truly welcomed to a GSF event until the opening reception. This year’s took place in an eccentric lounge on the Mezzanine floor of the Madrid Marriott Auditorium–complete with purple couches, some glowing green lights, and even a DJ.
The food was PHENOMENAL, and the ~200 attendees of the reception were happy to realize they did not need to make dinner plans for afterward. The paella went fast, there were at least three types of skewers, and with hush puppies and mozzarella sticks available, there was something for everyone.
As with all of our networking opportunities, this is where a lot of the real business and personal relationships are fostered. The “Hey do you know” introductions are made in a more informal environment where people can talk more frankly about what they do and what they are looking for.
Looking forward to Day 2
We’re excited to kick off the Symposium events tomorrow morning in the ballroom, starting with remarks from the Chief of Defense for Spain, General Fernando Alejandre Martínez.
Stay tuned to the GSF Blog for updates on the events in Madrid!
Update: Read on for the recap of the first full day of the Symposium!