As you’ve probably noticed, we at the GSF do not like to leave anything till the last minute. (We still do, sometimes, but we don’t *like* it).

Because of that, we found ourselves in Europe this week, beginning our preparation for our European Symposium….that we’re holding in 2020!

Welcome to Warsaw

We’ve got Friends in Europe Places
My certificate from my Salt Miner “training.”

The 2020 Global SOF Symposium will take place in Warsaw, Poland, and we’re really excited about what the city has to offer. GSF President Stu Bradin and Director of Marketing Chelsea Hamashin (that’s me!) arrived with relative ease… for flying halfway around the world. But there are quick flights to Warsaw from all of the hubs in Europe, so it’s a pretty easy trip.

I even came a few days early for a quick weekend in Krakow, which I also recommend–so build in some extra time when you join us in 2020, and you too could become a certified salt miner. #ConfirmingWinning

We had drinks and dinner on our first night in Warsaw with a whole crowd of familiar faces! Brian Kent and some of his locally-based teammates from Huntington-Ingalls Industries, a GSF Corporate Partner formerly known as Fulcrum, joined us at our hotel, as did two of our friends who are former Polish SOF.

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Drinks with Huntington Ingalls Industries and former POLSOF.

It was an engaged group, and we spent a few hours at the Marriott’s rooftop bar for some amazing views and good conversation about the European SOF environment. It would have lasted even longer, but I insisted that the small bowls of trail mix didn’t count as “dinner” and sent the crew off to get a real meal.

The Sun Rises Early in Europe

We learned quickly that at this time of year in Warsaw, the sun starts to rise just after 4 AM. That’s right… Just. After. 4. AM. Both Stu and I forgot to close our curtains, so you could tell from the firing of emails back and forth that the early sunrise meant no rest for the jet-lagged.

The morning sun did offer great views of the city, which we would be spending the day touring to visit different venues for our 2020 Symposium in Poland. And tour we did.

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On the tram with Chris Hutchinson of Allies, Inc.

First we took the tram across the river to the National Stadium–both to see the venue, and to visit with Chris Hutchinson, our friend from our only Poland-based GSF Corporate Partner: Allies, Inc.

Allies operates out of Warsaw, and they just moved their office into the stadium, so it was a convenient one-two punch to see them both!

Next we visited some local hotels, which are venues that are a little more traditional for our events, including the Sofitel (which would be cool because it starts with “SOF”), the Warsaw Marriott, and the Warsaw Hilton. These were all lovely properties, but as you come to learn when you do these things–there’s never a *perfect* location (as much as we wish there were)! Plus– even though we are 18 months out, some of these venues are already booked almost completely for Fall of 2020… crazy!

We also had a good meeting with one of the local defense industry associations: the Polish Chamber of National Defence Manufacturers. They have 114 corporate partners in Poland, so we’re hoping that they’ll help us tap into that market to get Poland even more involved in our community and our event.

Stu had to wear a bib!

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The Palace of Culture and Science

Thanks to the help of a delicious dinner at the home of some local friends (and specifically the much-offered wine and local vodka), no one seemed to wake up with the sun on Day 3. However, we were still out of the hotel by 0900, heading to our first venue tour of the day at the Intercontinental Hotel.

The hotel was very nice, as was our guide, and it has excellent views of the Palace of Culture and Science–a large and historical symbol of Warsaw that was located right outside of the window. While our guide quickly realized the Intercontinental may not have the space we needed, he said, “Well why don’t you use the Palace of Culture? There’s big events there all the time!”

Ladies and gentlemen: this was a news flash.

Since we luckily had a short break in our schedule, we hightailed it across the street to the Palace of Culture, hoping we’d be able to get an impromptu tour. Stu was very determined to see the space, and after following misguided directions that led us to the basement, 5th floor, and 13th floor, we ultimately found the right team on the 15th floor of the building!

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Inside the Palace event spaces.

They were very helpful, and took the time to show us around their non-traditional event space. It was pretty cool, but we aren’t sure if it would work for a Symposium. Decisions, decisions.

We jumped in an Uber to see one more spot–another one that hurt because it was the biggest and most accommodating space, but it was also pretty far out of town… We certainly have some thinking to do before we can officially decide and announce the venue and dates for Poland 2020. So stay tuned.

For our last official meeting in Poland, we met with some representatives from the Polish SOF Command, which is actually based further south in Krakow. The two gentlemen generously took the train up to meet with us, and we spent a few hours discussing the process, planning next steps, and working together to ensure that our visions for the event were aligned.

For our last unofficial meeting in Poland, we got to spend a little more time with our Corporate Partners. The Allies, Inc. team invited us to dinner, and as luck would have it–two representatives from Maxar also happened to be in Warsaw and they came, as well!

We ate at a very cool underground restaurant called AleGloria, which is owned by one of Poland’s top chefs. It was a good opportunity to get some Polish cuisine, but even better: Stu had to wear a bib. 🙂

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It’s dinner time!

Dziękuję (Thank you, pronounced jen-koo-yah), Poland!

Every country has a SOCOM, but it’s not the same…

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Just arriving in Amsterdam!

When we make a trip, we take advantage of the travel. It’s an easy hop from Warsaw to get to Amsterdam, so we made plans to visit with our friends in Dutch SOF.

We wanted to meet with them for many reasons.

  1. We are very close with some members of the team, as we’ve known them for many years, so it’s always great to catch up.
  2. We wanted to take the opportunity to brief the full (and growing) NLD SOCOM on what the GSF does, and meet with their commander.
  3. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark are standing up a Joint SOF command together, and as Stu has said: “A lot of people are watching what they’re doing right now.”

Per item #1, our friend Harry from Dutch SOF picked us up at our hotel (after our way-too-early flight from Warsaw), and since we did have some time before our meeting he took us on a little bit of a side trip to Gouda. For the non-Dutch out there, it’s actually pronounced “How-dah,” with some slight guttural inflections at the beginning that make it easier to just sound non-Dutch and say Gouda.

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At the Gouda Cheese Market

This was a cool opportunity because we were able to attend the famous Gouda Cheese Market, which is full of Dutch history. From how they barter to how they make the cheese, it’s a traditional experience that’s very worthwhile.

We also met with another local friend in Gouda, so we had lunch with him to discuss SOF acquisition in Europe and discuss some ways we could work together.

From there we went to The Hague, which is the home of Dutch SOF. We went right to the Dutch Ministry of Defense, and after the badging process we headed right to the offices of NLD SOCOM. NLD SOCOM just officially stood up at the end of last year, and you can read more about their mission here.

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The very cool logo for NLD SOCOM.

We had an excellent series of meetings with the team there. First we met with the NLD SOCOM Commander, then Stu had the opportunity to brief the members of the command about what the GSF does, and we even had a working group afterwards, where we didn’t realize it but we were working with one of the few Knights of the Netherlands.

We capped out the evening with dinner in The Hague, so we got to leave the Ministry building and explore the town a little. It was a Thursday evening, which we learned is the standard night for all of the government employees to meet in the square and share a beverage. So it was pretty packed, and cool to see everyone from all of the different Ministries and departments socializing.

We’ve got Friends in Europe Places
Dinner in the Hague!

As the Commander said, “Every nation has a SOCOM, but none of them are the same,” which is why we try to get as much first-hand knowledge as possible about how our Partner Nation SOCOM’s work.

Heading Home for SOFIC

Stu headed back to Tampa the next morning to start prepping for our Reception at SOFIC week, while Chelsea took a train down to Brussels to do some prep for our upcoming Global SOF Symposium in Belgium. Registration is open now for both of those events, so sign up today to join us!

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