We need more chairs!
Thursday brought a slightly later start—for most of us—since we’d all had a bit more time to assimilate to the European schedule…which means a late dinner. Knowing that, we made sure the program didn’t start until 0930, except for the participants of the Government Round Table.
Dr. Keenan Yoho, the VP of the GSF, lead the charge on this event along with Major General Jaime Iñiguez Andrade, the Commander of Spain’s Joint Special Operations Command, which is better known by it’s Spanish acronym MCOE (pronounced mah-coh-ee).
The session started at 0800 and was only open to Military and Government attendees, so we didn’t expect a packed house. Turns out, we were wrong and ended up needing to bring in more chairs! While this session was only supposed to last for one hour, it actually pushed right to the start of the Symposium–making it nearly 90 minutes.
Between the EU/NATO SOF Seminar and this active Round Table, this Symposium has given the military and government representatives from over 30 nations ample opportunities to engage.
A Morning of Heavy Hitters
Moving into the main ballroom, the final day of sessions was opened by the day’s Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Remi Eriksen, who is the Chief Executive Officer of MAS Special Operations Training, a GSF Small Business Partner.
Remi had the honor of welcoming The Honorable Maria Elena Gómez Castro to the stage for our morning Keynote. She serves as the Director for the General Directorate of Defense Policy for Spain (DIGENPOL).
The Honorable Mrs. Gómez talked about deterring terrorism, stating that, “the goal will always be to deny the terrorists safe havens and ensure the security of our people.” She then discussed the ways in which she think the EU can and should grow as a “superpower” to help achieve that goal.
Following the DIGENPOL’s remarks was a panel entitled, “The Illicit Networks Spanning Ibero-America, North Africa and Europe.” The experts on this panel were Dr. Carlos Echeverría de Jesús, a Professor of International Relations at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia; Major General Daniel Grammatico, the Director of Operations of the Military Staff of the EU; and His Excellency Gen. Mamadou Sow, the Ambassador to the Embassy of Senegal in Madrid.
This panel was also moderated by Mr. Peter Bergen, who served as a moderator for the second day in a row. Peter led the conversation with some brief introductions before allowing each speaker to provide their insights on the topic of illicit networks.
As the only official speaker from Africa, Gen. Sow was a highlight of the session, talking about the ways Africa needs to engage with good networks to defeat the growing bad ones. As he stated, “Networks are not a part of our customs, but we know that many are going on, and we realize we need to work with Europe to help us with the illicit networks.”
This session was very interactive, allowing a number of questions from the audience.
After the networking break–which was the second-to-last chance to visit with exhibitors in the foyer, we had one more speaker before lunch: His Excellency Juan Carlos Pinzón, the former Minister of Defense for Colombia. He did not miss his chance to visit the exhibit hall, noting in his Keynote Remarks that he had seen the “wonderful tools” on display and that, of course, Colombia “wants the latest technology.”
His Excellency Mr. Pinzón further focused his remarks to highlight the successes of his nation in working against the FARC, with an engaging presentation that featured slides full of photos and a few impressive videos. He called Special Operations Forces “the strong hand of democracy…the ones who can deliver the blows that are necessary for political purpose.”
He also stressed the importance of politicians and military working “shoulder to shoulder,” stating that, “their understanding my political reasoning and my understanding the difficulties of war” was imperative to success in Colombia.
Lunch and Learn
The next event of the day was lunch–which was also the last opportunity in the Exhibit Hall. There were 28 vendors to visit, and we’d be remiss to again not mention the ones who were also event Sponsors… so one more thank you each to:
- Airbus Defense and Space Government Solutions, Platinum Sponsor as well as Pens, Signage, and the Mobile App
- Crisis Response Company, Silver Sponsor
- Spectra Group (UK), Bronze Sponsor
- Tampa Microwave, Worldly Wednesday Lunch
Equally important but non-exhibiting Sponsors were Fulcrum Co, a GSF Small Business Partner as well as the Lanyard and Room Key sponsors, and Shephard News–the Media Sponsor. We hope you grabbed one each of their lanyards, room keys, and magazines!
The lunch was again a very social affair, with food deliveries directly to attendees so that conversations could continue with minimal interruptions.
We did finally manage to interrupt GSF President Stu Bradin, however, from his back-to-back-to-back conversations, for our staff picture! It only took 11 minutes to wrangle everyone to the stage… that may be a record!
Also please note the matching outfits in the middle… a team that shops together, stays together!
After lunch came the final speaking events of the Symposium. We started about 10 minutes late because we were joined by a group of 40 NATO Parliamentarians–they had a three day tour of events in town, and we were one of their last stops!
Once they arrived, we kicked off the session with Mr. Robert “Bob” Brush of GSF Small Business Partner Point One. Mr. Brush talked about Explosive Ordnance Disposal, more commonly known as EOD. As he stated at the beginning, it was a hard topic to fit into 30 minutes, but he took that time to provide an overview of how EOD units should be formed and embedded into SOF units.
“To the casual observer, an EOD operator and a SOF operator should look pretty much the same until the point where the serve their function within their unit,” he said.
The next and final panel of the Symposium focused on “What it takes to be a SOF Component Headquarters.” Moderated by Mr. Stephen Wisotzki, of Global Security and Investigations, JPMorgan Chase, it also featured Major General Iñiguez, Vice Admiral Colin Kilrain, the Commander of NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ), and Air Brig Gen Philippe Morales, the Deputy Commander of Special Operations in France.
VADM Kilrain talked about the level of support that our host nation had provided to the NSHQ, stating that, “Spanish SOF has really taken a leadership role in NATO..they are leading from the front.”
The group continued to discuss their nations’ individual and joint efforts toward the cause before taking questions from the audience. Topics ranged from ITAR to integrations with industry to staying ahead of near-peer competitors.
The “So What”
Once the panel ended, Major General Iñiguez stayed on the stage to provide some closing remarks. He talked about the “So What” of the Symposium and giving all attendees “food for thought” on our joint path forward. We can’t give away all of that here though…if you missed it, you’d better attend in the future!
We can share with you the EU/NATO Joint SOF Seminar and Global SOF Symposium – Europe combined attendee numbers and profiles, however. We had nearly 430 attendees from 31 nations, and almost 45% of those attendees were military or government representatives.
Almost half of that group stayed to network one more time at the Closing Reception, which took place at the Historic Casino de Madrid. While it’s not still an active casino, it’s a beautiful building full of history and food.
See you next time!
It was a great week in Madrid, and we are so grateful to Spain and the Madrid Marriott Auditorium for being such excellent hosts.
Make sure you join us at our next Symposium a little closer to the GSF’s home in Florida… the fifth annual Global SOF Symposium – US.