Opening the doors of the Modern Warfare Expo

Yesterday was the first official day of the Modern Warfare Symposium and Expo, which brought a growing crowd of exhibitors and attendees to the Iron Mike Conference Center starting at 0700. The early start allowed Exhibitors to put final touches on their booths, while attendees had the opportunity to make introductions and trade war stories.

The doors to the Modern Warfare Expo opened at 0800, and we must say that this has been one of our most vibrant exhibit halls to date! The location on Ft. Bragg allowed easy access to both conventional and SOF Army forces, which brought in a larger crowd of uniforms to tour the floor than we see at events off-post. With nearly 40 exhibitors and a Coffee Break sponsored by Lukos, it was a lively start to the day.

The registration line was long at times, but it moved quickly thanks to our steadfast staff (thank you!). Despite some issues with the internet speeds, we were able to get nearly 400 people badged and ready for the day. Which led us right into the 0900 start for the Modern Warfare Symposium.

GSF VP and USASOC Commander Open Symposium General Session

The Symposium began with welcome remarks from our Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Keenan Yoho. Keenan is the Vice President of the GSF, and he kicked off the Symposium events with an intro that included some ground rules and housekeeping, and also a practice live polling question. Using the event app, presenters were able to ask the audience questions and get responses displayed in real time. For Keenan’s test question, we asked the audience about his tie…and it looks like his patriotic red, white, and blue number was a crowd pleaser!

LTG Francis Beaudette, the Commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, better known as USASOC, also provided welcoming remarks. LTG Beaudette told the gathering crowd that, “our purpose this week is to facilitate candid discussions…about the future of warfare.” He provided commentary on the four complementary capabilities held within USASOC, stating that his command prides itself as the premiere practitioners of irregular warfare.

His comments perfectly demonstrated why the Modern Warfare Symposium was held at the home base of USASOC, and why the GSF was so honored to have this command as a co-sponsor for this event!

In order to enable the “candid” conversations requested by LTG Beaudette, the panels at this Symposium were held under Chatham House Rule, which means no quotes or concepts presented can be attributed to any specific speakers.

The first such panel was focused on “The Multi-Domain Battlefield,” and we are incredibly thankful to Mr. Michael Lumpkin for stepping in to moderate this panel after the previous moderator was unable to attend. The discussion covered the ways that this new way of warfare requires more than just kinetic approaches, and what needs to be done to help leaders and decision-makers better understand the impact of the other types of virtual and non-traditional battlefields that are rising up across the spectrum.

Attendees were very complimentary of the panel, and the discussions around the following coffee break were very focused on what was discussed. As one attendee from GSF Partner Fulcrum said, “that was the most interesting panel discussion I’ve seen in a long time.”

The next panel focused on synergy between conventional forces and SOF, and featured speakers who are current day leaders in U.S. operations. As one speaker said, “SOF and Conventional bring different tools to the table,” and that the key is for Commanders to understand what those tools are and how to use them. The panelists also noted the value of Partner Nation and other surrogate forces and the importance of industry partners coordinating with a “shared vernacular” to best serve their mutual customers.

This Symposium and Expo are as much about networking as they are about the speaking events, so the schedule allows for longer lunches that enable deeper discussions. Attendees and speakers alike enjoyed simple box lunches provided by the Iron Mike Conference Center as they discussed the technology and topics of the day.

The next presentation in the Symposium, “Introduction to Threatcasting,” was very unique and a product of a joint collaboration between Ms. Cyndi Coon of the Threatcasting Lab and LTC Natalie Vanatta of the Army Cyber Institute. The duo channeled the futuristic themes of this concept by discussing their favorite sci-fi and how it related to the idea of threatcasting, which brings together a diverse, interdisciplinary collection of people and organizations to model possible threats and specific actions that can be taken.

The final panel of the day focused on countering hybrid threats, and included leaders in both military and defense policy. The discussion was not all sunshine and roses, and as one presenter said, “Our current practices and decision making paradigms…are totally insufficient for what’s facing us in the future.” It wasn’t all bleak, but the resounding theme was that the U.S. and its partner nations can not become complacent in past successes and need to work to ensure that we are prepared for future and current threats.

As the Symposium came to a close, an attendee noted that he had been to many events that over promised and under delivered, and said that this event did not disappoint in the quality of speakers and topics discussed.

The Symposium was over, but the Modern Warfare Expo was still going strong and all event attendees were welcomed for a networking reception in the Exhibit Hall. Sponsored by Fulcrum and Owl Cyber Defense, this event provided further opportunity to learn from one another and view the capabilities of exhibiting organizations.

The Night Vision Demo

Excelitas Qioptiq teamed up with The Range Center to provide attendees with one more opportunity, which around 60 attendees took advantage of–to include a vanload of International attendees.

The Range Complex is around 30 minutes outside of Fayetteville, but it’s pretty impressive once you arrive. The parking lot was full and rows of mobile facilities housed various classrooms, offices, and storage. Guests were provided with a brief presentation on the technology they would be using, along with a presentation on range safety–this had to happen in two sessions since so many people attended!

Once each group completed its safety brief, attendees were treated to a complimentary BBQ dinner from McCall’s, and also provided with an array of ear protection, flashlights, and a stash of ponchos (which luckily were enough to keep the rain away!).

The demonstration of Excelitas-Qioptiq advanced night vision systems included both thermal and fused systems on a variety of different weapon systems. There were ample opportunities to shoot, but handheld systems were also available for those who just wanted to see the different optics in action.

Attendees were clearly impressed–some of the systems made it seem like we were sitting in broad daylight while others outlined different thermal signatures and yet others enabled enhanced distance vision.

Thank you to TigerSwan’s The Range Complex and Excelitas Qioptiq for hosting this excellent supplementary event to the Symposium! 


Don’t miss the recaps of the The Lead UpDay 2, and Day 3 of the inaugural Modern Warfare Symposium and Expo.

Thank you to our Modern Warfare Expo Sponsors: