Inaugural events are never easy—lessons are learned the hard way, unexpected obstacles arise, symposium dates have to be changed without warning…  We knew hosting our first overseas event would be a huge undertaking. BUT through the amazing work of the Lithuania Defense and Security Industry Association (LDSIA), eventPower, our beautiful host nation and the 250+ believers that attended…the first Global SOF Symposium in Europe exceeded our expectations.

A recurring theme at the symposium was the shift in that hostile environment from traditional warfare to more unconventional methods.  Hybrid Deterrence panelist LTG Joseph Osterman, the Deputy Commander of USSOCOM, commented on the need for Eastern European nations to keep up with the changing battlefield, stating that “the force that can adapt and be flexible is likely the one that will prevail.” Since SOF should be a nation’s most adaptable and flexible defense force, “there is a major role for SOF in new generation warfare and a justification for investing heavily in it,” said Dr. Phillip Peterson of The Potomac Foundation.

In order to ensure that they invest in their SOF wisely, Lithuanian representatives asked that this symposium focus on identifying their capability shortfalls and prioritizing modernization efforts, while connecting Lithuanian and American defense companies in order to expedite filling those gaps.  The most obvious needs for Lithuanian SOF identified during the Symposium were in communications/C4I and aviation—exemplifying the hybrid warfare scenario.  Exhibitors in other focus areas also felt the love; as the CEO of GSF Corporate Partner Spatial Networks stated, “the demand signal for what we offer was very robust.

For the GSF, the greatest success of this event was the creation of more “SOF Champions”—both in industry and in our Partner Nations. As one survey respondent said, “this is a great event — not like anything I have ever seen or attended. So glad I had the opportunity to participate and when I get back to my corporate headquarters I am going to urge the leadership to become even more involved.”  That is a “SOF Champion”, and that is what we need to help us ensure that SOF is fully resourced and enabled throughout the world.