"Community Relations programs are associated with the interaction between
NATO military installations in NATO member states and their surrounding civilian communities.
These programs can take the form of addressing issues of interest to
and fostering relations with the general public, business."
[NATO Military Public Affairs Policy]
Supreme Allied Command Transformation's main Community Relation event is the annual Norfolk NATO Festival when – since 1953 – the City of Norfolk honours NATO and its member nations.
Model NATO Challenge
The 2017 Model NATO Challenge brought together 32 High School Students from across the Hampton Roads area in discussion of a fictitious crisis affecting NATO. During the challenge, which is a simulation of the North Atlantic Council, these student ambassadors, representing all 28 nations of the Alliance, together with their Allied Command Transformation military advisors, produced a very lively and informed debate, about how NATO should, or could, react to an emerging crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The event took place for the third time at Virginia Wesleyan College where, once again, the college did everything they could to ensure the success of the event. Everything, that is, except the weather as, during the simulation, the students, mentors and all staff associated with the event, were evacuated to the College gymnasium as tornado warnings sounded throughout the area.
The students, however, did not let this stop them as they demonstrated true NATO-style resilience by continuing their discussions and partnership building between nations as they used the opportunity to seek solutions to the simulated crisis, until the all-clear was sounded, enabling the return to the Challenge.
“The ability of the student ambassadors to continue their discussions throughout the evacuation was most pleasing to witness”, said Lieutenant Colonel Matthias Ziese, the military mentor for Germany. “The College ensured complete safety for all through their emergency procedures and the perseverance and adaptability of all involved, was outstanding.”
The simulation set the daunting challenge, in the realistic setting of the North Atlantic Council meeting format, for the students to balance national priorities and NATO’s responses to the crisis, ensuring that those responses were considered and very informative.
Opening the Model NATO Challenge this year, Air Marshal Sir Graham Stacey acknowledged the task ahead of the student ambassadors and the importance of the unique chance to take part in such an event. “Your role here today should not be taken lightly; as the highest decision-making body in NATO, your decisions will shape the course(s) of action that I as a military commander will take to go some way to solving the crisis.” He said.
The Model NATO Challenge is a collaboration between NATO's Allied Command Transformation and the Norfolk NATO Festival Board, as part of the significant Allied Command Transformation community outreach programme and the Norfolk NATO Festival education programme. The winners of the Challenge receive scholarship payments for their future education, ranging from $2500 to $1000.
The 2017 Model NATO Challenge and Press Corps winners are Caroline Fox, Princess Anne HS, representing Romania ($2,500); Reagan Bracknell, Princess Anne HS, representing Norway ($1,500); and Samuel Lisner, Ocean Lakes HS, representing Lithuania ($1,000). The Press Corps winner is Sydney Doyon, Cox High School, who wins an Internship with NATO's Allied Command Transformaiton Public Affairs Office.
NATO Appreciation Night
Every year, the Norfolk Admirals host NATO Allied Command Transformation staff at the Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.
In 2017, on January 25th, more than 200 ACT staff members, families, and friends joined together to celebrate NATO Appreciation Night.
NATO’s Allied Command Transformation Honour Guard carried the flags of the United States, Allied Command Transformation and NATO for the playing of the National Anthem.
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, German Navy Admiral Manfred Nielson, and Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer (Writer) David Britchford, Allied Command Transformation’s Senior Military Member of the Year, held a ceremonious puck drop.
Admiral Nielson enjoyed the experience and said it is always a special time when NATO members can get out into the community to meet the people of Hampton Roads.
Association of Former Officers
The Association of Former SACLANT/SACT* Officers is a military fraternal organization based in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Association's purpose is to foster and strengthen the continuation of the NATO spirit in an atmosphere of conviviality and friendship among former staff officers, their spouses and guests.
The Association also aims to keep informed of NATO matters and contribute to wider discussion of the security of alliance nations. Allied Command Transformation and the Association engage in frequent consultations on topics of importance to NATO, its member nations and the local communities.
Membership includes former military and civilian officers representing all branches of service, air, sea and land from throughout Europe and North America. Several social events are hosted throughout the year, traditionally beginning with lunch and roses on Valentine's Day and ending with a Grand Buffet at year's end in Norfolk. Additionally, the Association hosts a formal Mess Night from time to time to recognize an individual member's uncommon military experience.
* Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) was redesignated as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) on 19 June 2003, after NATO restructuring.
Norfolk NATO Festival
Norfolk NATO Festival is the longest continuously running festival in the Hampton Roads region, and the only one of its kind in the United States which honours the NATO Alliance and its member nations.
In 1951, the Women’s Club of Norfolk and a number of Norfolk’s garden clubs embraced an idea espoused by Fred Heutte, the city’s Superintendant of Parks and Forestry, to promote the city’s floral beauty through an annual festival. Named the Norfolk Crape Myrtle Festival, it took place in Stone Park, located at the north end of The Hague, in the heat of the August sun.
However, after the 1952 festival, city business leaders from the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, the 21st Street Business Area Association, and the Retail Merchants Association revised the festival’s theme and season, choosing a springtime Azalea Festival to highlight the beauty of the one-hundred acre Norfolk Azalea Gardens (now called Norfolk Botanical Gardens). The festival was operated and financed as a Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the City of Norfolk, from 1953 to 1998.
In 1953, NATO established its first and only command in North America, Supreme Allied Command, Atlantic, in Norfolk, Virginia. Aligning the city’s Azalea Festival with the newly formed NATO command helped it to stand out from the multitude of other azalea festivals in nearly every state south of Mason-Dixon line. One year after NATO’s arrival, Norfolk city leaders renamed this event the International Azalea Festival, which served the dual purposes of a salute to the allied forces and celebrating the beauty of the city’s gardens.
In 2009, NATO celebrated its 60th Anniversary, with 28 full member nations and 22 partner nations as part of the Alliance, providing an ever-increasing and dynamic international community in Hampton Roads.
In the more than 50 years since its inception, the festival has developed into a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, which produces numerous cultural and educational events that are attended annually by thousands of people. The festival is proud to partner with other community organisations, including the Virginia Arts Festival, Visit Norfolk, Norfolk Public Schools, and Allied Command Transformation, to produce these events.
In 2009, the festival changed its name again to the Norfolk NATO Festival. Its goals include creating new friendships, providing a basis for cultural exchange, recognising the military's role in maintaining peace in the world, and pursuing new lines of trade between Norfolk and the world.