This is blog #1 written onsite at our Global SOF Symposium in Brussels, Belgium!
Every Global SOF Symposium is a reunion…and after 5 U.S. Symposiums in Tampa, 3 European Symposiums (Lithuania, Romania, and Spain), and 1 Modern Warfare Symposium at Ft. Bragg… that makes this year in Brussels reunion number 10!
Every event brings in more people, members of another community or network, so it’s a reunion that keeps growing.
And that’s never more apparent than in the days leading up to a Symposium….
Making the Journey
One great thing about this event being in Belgium, is that many of our European attendees, especially those with NATO and the EU can drive or take the train here. Which is great… for them. 🙂 But the GSF Staff had to make the flight!
Luckily, it’s a pretty easy path for us all, and in a first for the European Symposium every. single. bag. with our team made it with no issues! That’s a big win, folks! Especially because we were all strategically weighed down with sign cases and “temporary luggage” (like old coolers) to divide the many, many items, signs, and programs that we needed to bring with us.
We were happy to see that many of our old friends, new partners, and other attendees were in a similar situation. As the reunion began and you couldn’t walk through the lobby without seeing a group of people you knew, spirits were high and luggage was present!
There’s a UAV on the Chandelier!
One of the biggest delights in working on this Symposium has been the Belgium Special Operations Forces (BELSOF) team. They are true professionals, and they have jumped into this Symposium at 120%.
They are dedicated. They are timely. They are generous. As Stu would say… “Their Kung Fu is STRONG.”
In addition to helping us put together a pretty amazing bag for attendees, a unique speaker gift, and being the logisticians of our dreams… there is the BELSOF Static Display.
For most of our European Symposiums, the host nation’s SOF brings a display of their current and past equipment, manned and displayed by their Active Duty team. Just watching the setup for the BELSOF display, we knew it was going to be extra special.
Not only did they bring tables and tables of supplies, mannequins dressed in uniforms for a variety of mission sets, and posters, banners, and flags that cover the entire Symposium space… but they also brought a UAV. And they hung it from a chandelier.
They loved it, we loved it, and we’re pretty sure the chandelier loved it. But the hotel did not, so you’ll all have to find it in its new location at the Symposium. But for a few glorious hours, this bad boy dangled from a light fixture at the Le Plaza, and it was great.
The Jackpot that wasn’t!
While BELSOF was busy updating the light fixtures, the Global SOF team was in another part of the hotel working on standard pre-Symposium tasks.
This includes a whole array of things. Arranging Speaker Gifts. Putting together signs, setting up tables, and gathering videos and presentations. Printing badge after badge and getting them ready with lanyards and ribbons. Handling those (many) last minute registrations. Meetings with the hotel staff, BELSOF team, A/V runners, and more. It’s not anything particularly hard, but it certainly adds up and takes time, especially for a small team.
One such task was stuffing 400+ attendee bags (full of information and aforementioned gifts from BELSOF). And one such staff member is Chelsea Hamashin, GSF Director of Marketing and fresh off her birthday the night before (bottom left on said night). And as a fun birthday gift to herself, she accidentally rolled right from running an errand to putting together an attendee bag and dropping her wallet into that bag. But did she notice? No, no she didn’t. That’s the power of the event-prep frenzy!
Long story short, once the loss was realized there was much searching, retracing of steps, lost & found inquiries, and blocked credit cards… eventually culminating in depressed acceptance. We jokingly speculated that it could be in one of those 400 bags, but laughed it off. Because how would that happen?
Hours later, as our team was setting up registration in Mathilde (which you can find by walking outside of the main hotel doors to the right…see graphic below)… Stu came to the rescue.
In a feat that Chelsea won’t live down for at least 18 months, and more likely 18 years, GSF President Stu Bradin was placing the attendee bags and managed to somehow find THE bag… and THE wallet.
So “jackpot” may be a generous word for what one of you almost got upon arrival, but it certainly would have qualified as a surprise find! Luckily for Chelsea, that won’t be the case.
What’s Happening Today?
If you’re reading this on 1 OCT, that means it’s officially the first day of the Symposium. BUT, please read the agenda… either in the Whova App or on the website, to make sure you’re prepared for the day.
The main sessions today for the EU/NATO SOF Seminar are only open to Military and Government Attendees… so please don’t try to attend if that’s not you. But if it is, registration opened at 0700 and the session started at 8!
For our Exhibitors, the Exhibit Area setup begins at 1200 and it ends at 1700… so please prepare accordingly, and prepare to man your booths for the evening reception.
For everyone, Registration IS open all day, so feel free to stop by to get your badge and avoid the lines tomorrow! Thanks to our Partners Crisis Response Company for sponsoring the lovely center pieces, and to Huntington Ingalls Industries for sponsoring Registration and the lanyards.
And don’t forget, the evening reception, better known as the Walk Through History Welcome Reception, kicks off at 1800. This event is open to all registered Symposium attendees, and it’s sponsored by our Partner, Huntington Ingalls Industries. It’s going to feature many highlights from European WW2 history to photo ops to delicious food and drinks…. So arrive on time!
We’ll see you soon! #GSSBelgium
Stay tuned for more blog recaps of the event!