The GSF is based in Tampa, but we never spent much time in nearby Orlando until this year. On a recommendation from a GSF Corporate Partner, we started attending the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO-STRI)’s monthly PALT sessions. PALT stands for Procurement Action Lead Time, and these sessions provide an opportunity for government and industry to meet and learn about the requirements of current and upcoming contracts, to include a lengthy Q&A opportunity.

We were a little blown away by these PALT sessions, as they provided an outlet for frank conversation between government and industry that we do not often see, and the productivity we saw was refreshing.

This, combined with a visit to our partner Aero Simulation, Inc. (ASI), stirred up our interest in PEO-STRI and other training/simulation-focused activities in Orlando. Training and simulation is essential to keep the skills of SOF sharp, and as defense budgets fall under scrutiny mass-scale exercises are not always feasible.

The Interservice/ Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, more commonly known as I/ITSEC, is the annual convention for the training and simulation community and fittingly takes place in Orlando. While GSF representatives have attended in the past, this year we decided to do something a little more official and host a GSF Happy Hour at I/ITSEC.

On Monday, November 27th aka day one of I/ITSEC, the trade show floor opened at 2 PM. We explored the floor to see the latest in training and simulation technology and we were not disappointed. As Stu said, it’s less of a trade show floor and more like an arcade that doesn’t require quarters. There are opportunities to fly simulators of every kind, test out blinking, breathing medical mannequins, and pull the trigger in simulated shoot houses.

As we enjoyed this educational yet entertaining experience, we invited our fellow I/ITSEC attendees to supplement their first day of the conference with a stop in at our Happy Hour, which took place at The Pub in nearby Pointe Orlando.

As relative newbies to I/ITSEC, we were a bit worried that we wouldn’t get much of a crowd to our Happy Hour, especially since we started the event when the trade show floor wasn’t yet closed. However, we were pleasantly surprised with the turnout!

From 4:30 – 6:30 pm, we had around 70 I/ITSEC attendees join us at The Pub for a UK-themed buffet, an array of craft beers, and a selection of tasty wines. More importantly, we were thrilled with the level of conversations that took place–it seemed like we were either being introduced to someone we’d been wanting to meet or facilitating introductions that we knew could be fruitful for both parties. This is why we hold events like this…to nurture relationships that we know can ultimately bring benefits to the greater SOF community.

We spent the next day of I/ITSEC focused on follow-up and making sure that we’d seen the best of the best on the trade show floor. Stu also had the opportunity to meet with about 10 representatives from the USSOCOM J3-International, including the liaison officers from The Netherlands, Kuwait, and Singapore, to name a few. Stu showed them around the I/ITSEC floor as well, providing his insights and getting their unique perspectives.

All in all, we met some amazing new companies, were impressed by some of the latest technology, and added more links to our ever-growing SOF network. We fully expect to host another Happy Hour at I/ITSEC 2018…see you there!