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190214mnc400On Thursday 14 February, student diplomats from the Hampton Roads area high schools and universities visited NATO’s Allied Command Transformation as part of their preparation for the upcoming Model NATO Challenge 2019.

The Model NATO Challenge requires students to have a thorough understanding of the Alliance and how NATO operates. Part of the Allied Command Transformation Student Diplomat Programme, Model NATO Challenge provides an opportunity for command mentors to reach out to the local community.

Vice Admiral Paul Bennett, Allied Command Transformation Chief of Staff welcomed the student diplomats and highlighted the opportunity to not only learn about NATO and its contributions to peace and security in the world, but also get exposed to the complexities of operating in a multi-national consensus-based environment.

As part of this annual event, local high school juniors, seniors and college freshmen are selected for the challenge by completing an essay to demonstrate their knowledge of NATO and its member nations. The successful applicants then serve as a student diplomat and represent one of the 29 NATO member nations, or the press corps for the event. The students are also supported by an Allied Command Transformation mentor from that country.

The mentors were present throughout the visit and helped the students learn the dynamics of the command and provide their national perspective on the role, structure and activities of NATO, as well as the military, political-security, economic, and social issues facing the Alliance and their allocated nation.

The next event will be a spirited debate modelled after real NATO problem-solving techniques and the top six candidates will receive a scholarship award to be applied to a college or university of their choice.

The Model NATO Challenge is one of several events leading up to the main week of the annual Norfolk NATO Festival April 25-27. Events also include a 29-country flag raising and a parade in downtown Norfolk followed by a salute to NATO Nations in NATOFest at Town Point Park.

Allied Command Transformation leads NATO's military "Transformation" and development capabilities to address defence and security challenges by proactively providing future military estimates, perspectives and advice. During their visit to the command, the students talked with several staff members about the inner workings of NATO to help prepare them for the challenge.