NATO’s Allied Command Transformation and the Norfolk NATO Festival co-hosted the 2022 Model NATO Challenge at Virginia Wesleyan University on March 16th, the first in-person Model NATO Challenge since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, which is a part of the Norfolk NATO Festival, comprised of 30 students from Hampton Roads high schools, along with Virginia Wesleyan University, selected to participate in a mock global crisis simulation where they worked together to confront and overcome possible issues facing today’s 30-member NATO Alliance.
As part of the process, each student diplomat volunteered to represent a NATO Nation and was then assigned a mentor – a military servicemember currently serving with NATO’s Allied Command Transformation. The mentor met with and prepared their student diplomat for the challenge through organized study sessions focused on their country’s culture, military resources and political backgrounds.
The five hour-long event opened with recorded remarks from NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana: “Today’s challenge is a great opportunity to learn about the culture, interests, political and military motivations of allied nations. I ask you to practice the art of diplomacy and compromise,” said Geoana. “You are the future leaders of your communities, your countries and of our society. We depend on you to understand and practice the precious values that unite us.”
During the challenge, student diplomats worked together to address a mock crisis scenario while being judged on their leadership and diplomacy skills. For Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Paolo Ruggiero, who addressed the students, this is key for the success of not only the alliance, but in life: “This experience will teach you a significant lesson in everyday life, the importance of listening, understanding and considering each other’s point of view for a higher and nobler purpose,” said Ruggiero. “You may be future business men or women, academic researchers, diplomats or political leaders shaping foreign policy.”
Chiara Baez, a senior at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, represented North Macedonia and aspires to be just that; a leader in society. “This is very much in line with what I hope to do in the future,” explained Baez. “Getting that experience of interacting with them [other diplomats] and understanding how they work at the core of the organization is really, really important for me.”
The top three winners from the challenge, which will be announced at a later date, will earn college scholarships. The Model NATO Challenge, organized by The Virginia Arts Festival and Allied Command Transformation, serves as a bridge between the local community, academia, military organizations and the NATO Alliance.
As one of NATO’s two strategic commands, Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation has been located in the United States since its inception in 2003. As the warfare development command for NATO, Allied Command Transformation’s mission is to contribute to preserving the peace, security and territorial integrity of Alliance member states by leading the transformation efforts of military structures, forces, capabilities and doctrines.