The second day of the Global SOF Symposium featured service dog demonstrations, some schooling on the human brain, and an emotional 78-minute documentary featuring former Green Berets. Many relationships were fostered, companies were showcased, and we might have even learned a thing or two.
We started the morning with a Corporate Partner-only breakfast, and we’re not talking Fruit Loops. As the members of our Partner companies dined on eggs, bacon, fruit, and muffins, they were privy to a short briefing to learn about opportunities to get involved with Bold Quest, a coalition demonstration focused on interoperability.
Then we kicked off events in the main ballroom, inviting Lieutenant General Joseph Osterman to provide a keynote speech, after a highly complimentary introduction from our Founding Partner and Platinum Sponsor, Textron Systems’ Don Wilbourn. Mr. Wilbourn noted that “the networking and connections that happen at this symposium continue to astound,” before bringing Lieutenant General Osterman to the stage. In his address, Lieutenant General Osterman discussed the current environment that we live in, noting it’s “amazing complexity” compared to previous conflicts when issues were more black and white. He was positive, however, stating that “the lens that I look through is one of opportunity.”
As we moved to the concurrent panels, the GSF received the STUpendous news that one of the attendees of the previous day’s SOF for Life Seminar had been offered a job by Fulcrum Co, one of our GSF Small Business Partners! Riding the excitement of that news, we rolled into the panels, one focused on international training and the other on protecting the homeland. The training panel featured representatives from Norway, Germany, Israel, the U.S., France, and Lithuania, and they discussed their nation’s SOF training concepts. They all believed in the benefits of international SOF training, and as Germany’s Sergeant Major Marco Bayerlein said, “We are united by a purpose.” The panel on protecting the homeland was also well attended, and featured moderator Peter Bergen—who recently accepted the role of Chairman of the Board for the Global SOF Foundation
After a quick networking break, sponsored by Fluor, we started our SOF Slams. SOF Slams are modeled after the TED Talk format, so they provide quick insights into SOF-related topics from dynamic speakers, and we sandwiched lunch with two on each side of it. The first was very interesting (and a little scary), coming from Rick Elder from BeyondClothing. He spoke about the oft-ignored Arctic Cap and the implications of its impending disappearance, tying it all back to the innovative arctic gear that his company is developing. He was followed by Dr. Erik Won, who is currently studying innovative technology that he initially compared to “witchcraft,” but became a believer after a double-blind study showed a 60% reduction in symptoms in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD sufferers.
After lunch, we welcomed Mr. Mark Moen to the stage, where he used his thirty minutes to educate us on the possibilities within US Security Assistance. He noted the importance of knowing the regulations, saying that “when you tell a lawyer that FMS money doesn’t expire, they don’t understand that.” We moved from money to service dogs, bringing up Ms. Carol Borden and Elvira, her 8-year-old service dog. Ms. Borden spoke passionately about the support that her service dogs have provided to veterans, saying that the 200+ dogs that have been donated to those with “invisible” disabilities across the country have prevented suicides and improved lifestyles. She and Elvira went on to invite some audience interaction as they demonstrated the dog’s capabilities.
For our last panel of the day, we invited Defense One’s Mr. Patrick Tucker, Dr. Ian McCulloh from JHU, Brigadier General (Ret) Arne Skjaerpe, and Mr. Jim Smith of USSOCOM to the stage to discuss “game-changing” technologies. They had a vibrant conversation, talking about everything from social psychology to drones, and the implications for the SOF of the future. Mr. Smith noted that counter-UAS is a big need for USSOCOM right now, but believes that “the game changing event that will happen in the next ten years is going to be something we don’t expect, and the challenge will be who has the wherewithal to see it.”
That concluded the thinking events for the day, so we moved on to a drinking event—a networking reception sponsored by DigitalGlobe. The Networking Lounges in the foyer were now complemented by carving stations and bars, and attendees mixed and mingled, showing off their capabilities and discussing the previous panel. Mr. Peter Bergen was also onsite, signing copies of his book "United States of Jihad."
The evening was highlighted by a screening of the Legion of Brothers—a documentary produced by CNN, and this was its first public screening since its premiere at Sundance. There really are no words to describe the film…it was emotional and thought-provoking and people in the room could barely look away. To make the evening even more special, we rounded it out by bringing producers Tresha Mabile and Peter Bergen, along with Mark Nutsch, Bob Pennington, and Scott Neil, who were featured in the film, to the stage to answer questions from the audience and discuss the movie's making.
It was another impressive day at the Global SOF Symposium, and we’re excited to see what tomorrow brings!