EU + NATO SOF
At last year’s European Symposium in Madrid, representatives from the EU and NATO SOF Headquarters had their first SOF-focused meeting on the day prior to our Symposium events. They enjoyed the opportunity so much that they decided to do it again this year.
Since this seminar is a full day affair, the Registration Desk in Mathilde was open early. As our staff walked over at 0630 to get things ready, a bus full of Belgian soldiers rolled up and unloaded into the hotel… so we knew things were getting serious!
By 0700, EU and NATO reps were arriving, getting their badges along with some hot tea and coffee! In the foyer and gallery, conversations were already flowing.
This was a government- and military-only session, so we weren’t part of the conversation, but we were told that the discussions in the breakout sessions were very dynamic and that participants were passionate about the subjects.
One of the most exciting speakers of the day flew in straight from Niger. It was a powerful presentation and a big subject of discussion, making it understandable that the seminar went overtime by nearly an hour!
Meanwhile, we had 36 Exhibitors setting up their booths in the Exhibit Areas. Since it’s Europe and many hotels are on the older side, we often have to get creative with how the Exhibit Areas are laid out.
Here at the Le Plaza, that meant we really had four small exhibit halls, each one a little different in size, shape, and of course, exhibitors. That means you don’t quite know what to expect as you walk through each doorway… which we actually found pretty exciting!
Exhibitors, which included long-time Corporate Partners and brand new companies to the GSF alike, started moving in at 1200. All was moving along smoothly, until…Tablegate!
Every European Symposium takes place in a different country, so we have to find new vendors, new venues, and work through different customs in each place we visit. Which is often great, but sometimes things don’t work out smoothly.
Hence: Tablegate. While many exhibitors were expecting a long, rectangular table, we received a slew of small round tables… which doesn’t work for many companies looking to showcase their wares!
Luckily we were able to live by the “Semper Gumby” creed of flexibility and the Le Plaza was verrrry kind to us and helped us move around and exchange tables left and right until all the exhibits were (hopefully) happy.
Whether we’re facilitating discussions with defense leaders from different nations or… working to get the right tables at booths, we’re here to accomplish things together as a community.
Walking Through History (with VIPs!)
Next Up: an event we’ve been excited about for a while, the Walk Through History Welcome Reception! This opening reception was special for a few reasons:
First, thanks to our Sponsor Huntington Ingalls Industries, we were able to have a variety of history stations throughout the Exhibit Area. These stations each focused on a different country or region in Europe, and highlighted different milestones from WWII that took place in that country.
Secondly, BELSOF setup a history station as well, with a video that highlighted the history of their units and mannequins dressed in authentic uniforms. That was in addition to the already impressive Belgian SOF Display in the foyer of the Symposium.
And of course, Ranger Rick Lamb was there wearing one of his 14 famed period uniforms, this one from WWII, taking photos and talking history with the attendees! Thank you, Rick, for sharing your collection and love of History, as always.
We were also honored to have Lieutenant-General Rudy Debaene, Belgium’s National Director of Armament, attend the Reception. He asked to quickly walk through the Exhibit Area with GSF President Stu Bradin… but that turned from a “quick walk” to a 1.5 hour tour.
“He was blown away by what he saw,” Stu said excitedly. “There were 6 or 7 exhibitors with capabilities that he said would be keeping him up at night.”
So we started the week at our best: enjoying food and drinks, networking, and blowing the minds of senior defense leaders!
What’s Happening Today?
Today is the first full day of Symposium events for all attendees! Again, make sure you keep up with the agenda via your program, the website, or the Whova App so that you don’t miss a thing!
Enjoy the speakers, the food, and the networking! #GSSBelgium