By the end of this month, there will be about 500 U.S. troops, plus tanks, deployed to Romania. The nation is a key ally in the fight against jihadi groups and a major military supply hub bordering Serbia and Ukraine, two points of instability in Europe.
Against this backdrop, the Romanian chief of defense will be one of more than a dozen high-ranking foreign and U.S. military officials coming to the Tampa area this week to speak at the third annual Global SOF Symposium.
The symposium runs Tuesday through Thursday at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor. Speakers include Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command; Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; and top military leaders from Israel, France, Spain and Sweden.
The symposium will also present the first screening of Legion of Brothers, a documentary about Green Berets in the early days of Afghanistan, since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival.
With Romania creating its own Joint Special Operations Command headquarters, the symposium gives its chief of defense, Gen. Nicolae-Ionel Ciuca, a key opportunity to share his experience with other nations seeking to create similar headquarters, said Stu Bradin, president and founder of the Tampa-based Global SOF Foundation, which is putting on the symposium.
The foundation has no connection to SOCom, but advocates on behalf of special operations issues.
"The opportunity to stand up in front of the special operations community and tell other countries what Romania is doing is really important," said Bradin, a retired Army colonel who served as one of the top aides to former SOCom head William McRaven. "A lot of nations are aspiring to build special operations headquarters and listening to him talk about this stuff is gold."
There also will be panels on special operations technology, international training, protecting the homeland and the future of special operations and conventional forces integration.
For Peter Bergen, the symposium is an ideal venue to present Legion of Brothers’ first screening outside a film festival setting.
The documentary was produced for CNN by reporter Bergen; his wife, journalist and Emmy-nominated documentarian Tresha Mabile; Emmy-winning director Greg Barker; and Oscar-nominated John Battsek.
Among the featured Green Berets is Scott Neil, a retired master sergeant now living in Tampa.
"The symposium represents a cross-sample of the special operations community around the world," said Bergen, who was recently named the foundation's board chairman. "It is hard to imagine a more expert audience. We are thrilled to be able to screen it here."
The symposium, being held near the MacDill Air Force Base home of SOCom, offers an important chance for international partners to discuss the future of special operations, Bergen said.
"I think clearly there is no demand signal from the American public to send large conventional armies to other countries right now," said Bergen, who covers national security issues. "I suspect that there will only be a matter of degrees of difference between the Trump and Obama administrations when it comes to what they are doing in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan."
Bergen and Mabile will speak after the screening, which is available only to those attending the symposium.
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.