For the first time in over a year, there was a feeling of near normalcy in Tampa, Florida as the Global SOF Foundation hosted its annual SOF Symposium at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Tampa, a venue that last month had hosted one of the teams for the Super Bowl. 

With about 30 sponsors and exhibitor tables, attendees were able to network with each other and the exhibitors, something that has been missing throughout the past year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the threat of the coronavirus remains, the Hyatt was chosen, Global SOF’s President and CEO Stuart Bradin said, because it meets the high standards that the government requires. Plus the warm Tampa weather allowed for networking among members outside in the warmth. So, while there were people wearing masks, (many of the vendors and exhibitors offering their own, with logos) and social distancing rules were exercised, it felt almost normal.

Bradin welcomed the well-attended, extremely well-organized event. Many members of the SOCOM community were present as well as military Special Operations professionals from many of our allies including, but not limited to, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Chile, Norway, Japan, and Armenia. 

The two-day event was a bit shorter than Global SOF Foundation’s past events and attendance, while still high, was affected by some military members and business professionals not being able to attend due to COVID-related travel restrictions.

Still, there were a number of intriguing guest speakers and SOFREP was invited to report on the gathering. 

Among the guest speakers and professional development sessions included:

  • “Personality and Skills Assessment for Selecting the Future SOF Operator.”
  • “SOF For Life Transition Seminar.”
  • Keynote Presentation on Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service by retired General Talib Shaghati Mshari al-Kenani, Commander of Iraq’s CT Service.
  • Keynote Presentation by the Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon on the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
  • A panel discussion on “Chinese View of Competition with the U.S.” with Senior VP of the International Security Program Harold Brown, LTG (ret) In Bum Chen, former Commander of the Korean Special Warfare Command, Director of the Center for Strategic Research Department of Strategic Studies, USSOCOM, Dr. Chris Marsh, and Dennis Blasko, an independent analyst on China and a previous guest on SOFREP Radio podcast.
  • Senior Leader Conversation with Ms. Heidi Grant, Director, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and Ms. Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew Chief Operating Officer, Global SOF Foundation.
  • Senior Leader Conversation with MG Dagin Anderson, Commander Special Operations Command Africa, Robert Akin, CEO, Crisis Response Company.
  • Keynote Presentation by the Director of Force Structure, Requirements, Resources, and Strategic Assessments, USSOCOM, MG Sean Farrell.

SOFREP will be covering a number of these topics, including Iraqi CT efforts, the increasing role of the USSOCOM in Africa, and the threat from China, in more detail. 

Speaking with Bradin, who is a retired SF colonel, he said it was important for the community to get together and the event was a welcome step towards normalcy. The planned Global SOF event for Ft. Bragg in April was canceled due to COVID. Nevertheless, the Foundation’s annual anniversary celebration in May, also in Tampa, and its fall Symposium, to take place in Poland, will go forward as scheduled. The details of those upcoming events can be found on Global SOF’s website.

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