This is blog #4 written on-site at our Global SOF Symposium in Brussels, Belgium! Read all of the event blogs here.

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Somehow the Global SOF Symposium is already over! Not sure how that happened so quickly, but here we are… sharing the recap of the final day of the Symposium. Here’s what happened:

Government “Round” Table

So the tables weren’t really round, but we did start the day with a gathering of attending government and military representatives. Dr. Keenan Yoho, GSF VP, and Rick Lamb met around 15 representatives from Sweden, Germany, Malta, Spain, the US, and Belgium for an early morning deep-dive into the challenges and solutions they jointly face.

Topics included things like retention and recruiting (especially among those darn millennials), the importance of international training to build trust and relationships, and how to change organizations to increase capacity with more embedded enablers. Some of these are themes that would repeat throughout the day.

#GSSBelgium: Trust + Relationships
Attendees checking out the exhibitors as the day gets started.

While that group was meeting, other attendees started to stop into the Exhibit Area, getting some Cubic-sponsored coffee and starting up conversations. Things are always a little sleepier on the last day of an event, but things continued to pick up, and the theater started to come to life for the final day of the event.

Winston Churchill Stayed Here!?

Speaking of the theater at the Le Plaza hotel… quick segue. People were asking us about the history of this building, as there clearly is some, and we realized we didn’t know anything. So after some quick research this morning, this is what we learned….

The Le Plaza Hotel opened in 1930, and was designed by an architect who was inspired by a hotel in Paris, and it was soon frequented by prestigious guests like Winston Churchill. 

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The Theater as a Cinema.

In the 1940s, during Belgium’s occupation, the hotel was placed under the authority of the German troops, and military commanders took quarters here. But then the Germans made the hotel into a booby-trap before the arrival of the Allied Forces, and it was rigged to explode. Fortunately, this theater and much of the hotel survived the explosion. 

After the Allies took back over, this theater was named “The Churchill.” The theater was unique when it was built. It has inspirations from the US, Spain, and France, and was once a real movie theater. How cool is that?

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From the outside, it still looks pretty similar!

Getting into Fusion

Back to the present, today we started with a new Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Dave Huisenga! Dave is from our small business partner, Klas Telecom, and he did an amazing job.

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Dave Huisenga on the historic stage.

Dave introduced the day’s first keynote speaker: Major General Timothy Bevis, the Director of the Operations and Planning Division for the International Military Staff at NATO Headquarters. He talked about the changes happening in the SOF Space, the challenges they face, and interoperability. 

Maj. Gen. Bevis ended by saying that SOF is important to NATO because it’s the most ready, flexible force, especially with specific skill sets.

The next session was a panel, moderated by Keenan–who was certainly having a busy day with two sessions! His panelists included Brigadier General Gabriel Anghel of the Romanian Military Intelligence Directorate, Mr. Jacques Grimes, from the Office of the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and Mr. Aaron Jenkins, from the U.S. DEA.

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GSF VP, Dr. Keenan Yoho, introduces his panel.

The relationship building theme was strong in this talk. Mr. Grimes said, “After 25 years as an intelligence professional, I’ve found that the success in what we do all comes from relationships. And relationships come from trust and over time.”

As Keenan said after his session, the big take-away was the importance of fusion centers to build those relationships to break down barriers and share information. 

Procuring Some Lunch

We had an early lunch–many of the Europeans were likely confused when it was time for a big meal at 11:15. The Le Plaza treated us well for lunch again, with spreads of meat, fruit, fish, and…dessert! Lots and lots of dessert options. So we hope everyone brought a sweet tooth and was ready to enjoy the spread.

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Belgium Chief of Defense, General Compernol, enjoying a break in the Exhibit Area.

The next session came from Mr. Julien Challier of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency. He gave an all-encompassing brief on his agency, and discussed what those “Four Billion Euros for NATO!” really mean. 

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Mr. Julien Challier presents at the Symposium.

Then the time came to say “au revoir” to the exhibit hall! After one more last-chance break to visit the exhibitors and pass business cards. Because if you’ve ever participated in a trade show, you know that as soon as it’s over, the teardown is IMMEDIATE.

Thanks again to all of our awesome exhibitors for participating this week. From your capabilities to your patience with “Tablegate” the previous day, you were all superstars!

“I’m back!”

We saved a very special session for the end of the Symposium… the Senior Leader Conversation with Ms. Rasa Juknevičienė, a Member of the European Parliament. And this was very special to us because it was moderated by our own COO–Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew!

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Senior Leader Conversation with Ms. Rasa Juknevičienė and Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew.

This was her first time moderating a panel, and she did an absolutely amazing job (as we expected)–even pronouncing the challenging Lithuanian surname with poise! Ms. Juknevičienė discussed the importance of history, the need for greater European integration, and the importance of Western support for Ukraine.

If you don’t remember, Major General Johan Peeters of Belgium provided the opening remarks for the Symposium, and he returned to the stage to present the closing. “I’m back!” he exclaimed as he took the stage.

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Major General Johan Peeters provides closing remarks.

Maj. Gen. Peeters presented a really good summary of the week, highlighting some of the biggest take-aways from the different sessions, including that “the people is what it’s all about.” 

He also talked specifically about the Belgium SOF Command, calling them the “new kids on the block.” 

“I am convinced that we made the right decision to do what we had to do,” he said. ”Our nose is pointing in the right direction.”

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Stu receiving a gift from the Belgian SOF Regiment.

The Belgians and the GSF then engaged in an unexpected “gift off”… the Belgians presented Stu with a really cool knife plaque, and then Stu returned the favor with the presentation of a GSF Shield! Both sides then took turns thanking the Belgian SOF team that made this all happen, and of course, Dave Huisenga for his Master of Ceremonies skills!

We did it!

And that’s a wrap on the Global SOF Symposium in Belgium! Stu went on to invite all of the attendees to meet at the Delirium Cafe later that evening, saying, “If you don’t go to Delirium Cafe, you haven’t been to Belgium.”

Well folks, we’ve officially been, and it was a blast! 

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A sampling of the Speakers at the upcoming Modern Warfare Symposium.

See you at the next event… the Demo Days and Modern Warfare Symposium in Ft. Bragg.

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