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Global commandos flock to Palm Harbor to discuss future of Special Operations

French army Maj. Gen. Daniel Grammatico, a chief of staff to the European Union's military operation, is coming to Palm Harbor, where he will appear at the Global SOF Foundation Symposium being held at the Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor. [Photo courtesy of the Global SOF Foundation.]
French army Maj. Gen. Daniel Grammatico, a chief of staff to the European Union's military operation, is coming to Palm Harbor, where he will appear at the Global SOF Foundation Symposium being held at the Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor. [Photo courtesy of the Global SOF Foundation.]
Published Feb. 19, 2018

Commando leaders from around the globe are coming to Pinellas County this week to discuss common threats in an increasingly unstable world.

Most European Union members "are either growing or reinforcing" their special operations forces, French Maj. Gen Daniel Grammatico said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

That represents a big change from 2013, when the draw-down in Afghanistan brought fears that international special operations would lose budgets and their reason for being.

Grammatico said various threats since, including the so-called Islamic State, jihadi attacks in Europe and Russian hybrid warfare in Ukraine "have clearly dispelled those worries."

Grammatico, who serves as an EU military chief of staff, is one of several commando leaders attending the Global SOF Foundation Symposium this week at the Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor. The symposium is designed to get international special operations leaders together to figure out the best ways they can collaborate.

"We now have massive development in special operations globally," said foundation founder Stu Bradin, a retired Army colonel who served at U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base. "Spending is happening everywhere. Now the question is how do you integrate that?"

The symposium comes as President Donald Trump has proposed a nearly 11 percent budget increase, to $13.6 billion, for SoCom. That includes an additional 1,700 civilian and military support personnel.

The command, headquartered at MacDill, is tasked with fielding fully trained and equipped Navy SEALs and special boat crews, Army Green Berets, Delta Force and Rangers, Marine Raider and Air Force commandos.

"Special operations forces played an integral role as part of the joint force in the destruction of ISIS' physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq," SOCom's commander, Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, said during Congressional testimony last week. "We continue to have outsized effects around the globe.''

France has increased its special operations forces by about 1,000, said Grammatico. But the bigger trend, he said, is an increase in units that support commandos, including drone operations, electronic warfare and cyber warfare units. More EU nations are now engaging with international partners, Grammatico said, and Special Operations Forces "are often regarded as a very versatile tool in that context."

Hungary, for instance, is growing its commando operations, said Sandor Fabian, a retired Hungarian Special Operations Forces lieutenant colonel who will speak at the symposium.

He said Hungary had a special unit during the cold war, a long-range reconnaissance battalion, that later morphed into an American-style Special Forces battalion that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has grown into an even larger unit since, with more growth on the horizon.

The symposium runs from Feb. 19-21. Visit www.global
sofsymposium.org/us.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.