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Public Affairs : 2014 WPMUNI

Crisis is key to the West Point Model UN Invitational

Story and photos by Mike Strasser
Assistant Editor
WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 13, 2014) — The West Point Model United Nations recently hosted its fourth invitational at Jefferson Hall with more than 100 civilian and military students in attendance. They were tasked with resolving an international incident set in the year 2018—beginning with the kidnapping of an American ambassador in Mexico—while considering all matters of diplomacy, foreign affairs, public opinion and its implications on national security.

Participants came from Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania, Bard College, the Coast Guard Academy and several others, in addition to a European delegation of international students.

Four days out of the classroom and submerged in crisis resolution might sound like an intriguing diversion from studies, but make no mistake, Model UN members take these conferences seriously—as both academic and competitive endeavors. Even a reporter from Best Delegate, a website that promotes Model UN happenings around the globe, was there to document the event.

“Model UN delegations will travel from all over the country and the world to compete,” Class of 2014 Cadet Warren Geary, conference commander, said. “There’s a high caliber of talent in Model UN. I think the peers we have in Model UN are some of the brightest in terms of policy and theory in international relations, American politics and economics.”

This is why the WPMUN team and dozens of cadet volunteers invested so much into making this as rewarding an experience as the conferences they’ve attended. As a traveling team, cadets have competed at other institutions in the U.S. and abroad, so the West Point conference allows them to reciprocate as hosts.

The invitational is designed as a crisis response simulation where delegates serve on one of six committees forming the nation’s national security apparatus—like Southern and Northern Commands, National Governors Association, Senate and House foreign relations, and at the head, the National Security Council—with all the pertinent players from the White House, Pentagon, Congress and other governmental agencies.

It was four years in the making for Geary. He became a member of WPMUN during his plebe year when he served as an assistant committee chair at the inaugural conference in 2011. He followed up as the chief financial officer, and last year, served as the operations officer.

“We take the experience we gain from traveling and competing everywhere and bring that back to West Point to synthesize with the things our institution is known for like leadership and the fundamental challenge of time balancing,” Geary said. “That’s something we can teach delegates in committee that they necessarily don’t learn. At our invitational, we throw a lot of things at them and say ‘Now you need to prioritize all these things as if you represent the U.S. government.”

Learn more about the West Point Model UN here 
Read a second WPMUNI story here
It’s designed to be unlike a regular Model UN conference because, having competed successfully for so many years throughout the world, the cadets know what delegates expect. Where else, Geary said, can students create an operation order to plan a military intervention.

“We know what they’re used to and how they’d normally react. Here, we’re going to take them out of their comfort zone and welcome them to a military-style conference,” Geary said. “I would say delegates love coming to West Point simply for that experience. It’s not your traditional Model UN experience debating international policy. We’re taking a real-world issue and figuring out how the United States should respond to it.”

During the conference, participants heard from U.S. Southern Command’s deputy commander for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, Maj. Ricky Waddell. A Class of 1982 graduate, Waddell gave his perspective on Latin America as a cadet, junior officer and a commander.

A typical Model UN conference might have delegates in the thousands, but given limited resources and logistics, the cadets provide a select group with an impressionable and long-lasting experience at West Point.

Class of 2014 Cadet Brandon Moore acted as the Senate Chair for the committee on foreign relations during the invitational and is in charge of the WPMUN traveling team. He said aside from the traditional Model UN format where delegations represent the general assemblies of countries, the concept of crisis simulations is becoming more common.

“Generally speaking, a lot of the other conferences are also experimenting with this debate style,” Moore said. “So even though it is a Model UN conference, it has nothing to do with modeling the United Nations.”

From the very start, the WPMUNI reached out for international representation. Geary, an Economics major, recalled being buried in paperwork to make that happen but it was worth the effort.

“We have continued that practice because it really added to the relevance of our conference,” Geary said. “Just their presence, we believed, created a wider perspective on issues.”

Geary, a native Texan, was competing in Oxford last semester when he became engrossed in a thorough discussion on gun rights with a student from Greece.

“She was adamant in her belief and had no understanding as to why any nation would allow its people to own personal weapons,” Geary said. “That was strange to me because I had just bought a class pistol for graduation. So we had a very robust discussion on the nature of gun rights. I think that diversity, with so many people with completely and fundamentally different perspectives, makes for a great Model UN conference.”

West Point cadets served on the committee dais as directors, moderators and crisis liaisons to facilitate the action among the six groups. Another team, led by Class of 2014 Cadet Patrick Brown, operated a crisis operations center to feed information to the committees, while also receiving real-time updates on committee actions for them to react with appropriate responses, whether it be as terrorist organizations, media, the American public or international groups.

Class of 2014 Cadet Patrick Brown has participated in the invitational all four years and served as the crisis director at the 4th annual WPMUNI.

“The crisis tactical operations center is really the nerve center for all the substantive matters of the conference,” Brown said. “The whole point is to realistically simulate all the bureaucracy that goes into actually formulating a plan. There’s competing interests, competing agencies, political parties—a lot of overlap and friction within the national security apparatus.”

In the end, the Best Delegation Award was presented to Florida International University and Outstanding Delegation went to Georgetown University. The H. Norman Schwarzkopf Award was presented to the European Delegation for best exemplifying the spirit of civil-military cooperation during the competition.
The delegation from Florida International University earned the cadet sabre for the Best Delegation Award at the closing ceremony in the Haig Room March 2.

The H. Norman Schwarzkopf Award was presented to the European Delegation for best exemplifying the spirit of civil-military cooperation during the competition. 

Delegations convened at Jefferson Hall to represent the United States' national security apparatus during a crisis simulation at the 4th annual West Point Model United National Invitational.

A weapons display was set up outside the Haig Room with members of the Combat Weapons team providing demonstrations for the delegates. Later, they received some lessons in marksmanship at the indoor virtual weapons range, the EST-2000, inside Washington Hall. 

During the conference, participants heard from U.S. Southern Command’s deputy commander for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, Maj. Ricky Waddell. A Class of 1982 graduate, Waddell gave his perspective on Latin America as a cadet, junior officer and a commander.

Dr. Scott Helfstein, the director of strategic initiatives at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, served as plenary speaker and challenged the delegates to think broadly and challenge popular notions on terrorism. Maj. John Childress from the Department of Social Sciences, is no stranger to diplomatic role-playing in academia. The American Politics instructor has helped hundreds of cadets understand power plays in politics through a Congressional Simulation Exercise each semester. At the invitational, he spoke with Senate and House delegates on grand strategy as it relates to national security.

First Lt. Andrew Swick and his sister, Melanie, caught up at the closing ceremony of the 4th annual West Point Model UN Invitational at Jefferson Hall's Haig Room. Andrew was at West Point for a wedding and Melanie, a senior at the University of Virginia earned an award at the invitational.

First Lt. Andrew Swick, a Class of 2011 graduate and co-founder of the WPMUNI, was at West Point to attend a wedding. He was able to attend the closing ceremony where his sister Melanie, a senior at the University of Virginia, won honorable mention as the vice president of the National Security Council. She has attended the past three conferences, only missing the one her brother created.

“I created the conference with a friend, and I’m glad to see it has continued pretty much how we started it—as a crisis simulation designed to model the U.S. national security structure,” Swick, who currently is stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., said. “The real goal has always been the civil-military relations between civilian and military universities.”

Cadets look to inject the right amount of levity into the opening remarks at the gala March 1 at Cullum Hall. An indeterminate amount of references were made about the political drama series, "House of Cards," during the 4th annual West Point Model UN Invitational.

The gala at Cullum Hall March 1 was one of the event scheduled during the WPMUNI to foster civil-military relations between the participating schools. Class of 2014 Cadet Patrick Brown (pictured left) delivered remarks as the crisis director with the inside scoop on the crisis simulation. Class of 2016 Cadet Theo Adama (pictured right) was one of the WKDT dee-jays providing the music at the gala.

Class of 2014 Cadet Warren Geary is front and center at the closing ceremony for the 4th annual West Point Model UN Invitational.

Class of 2015 Cadet Patrick Beauregard, thanked the delegates for choosing to attend the West Point Model UN  Invitational. As conference chief of staff, he was happy to attend the closing ceremony without the walkie-talkie that was permanently attached to him throughout the conference and the stern look he wore while "putting out fires" whenever complications arose. He ended his remarks with a quote from "House of Cards."

We always loathe the necessity of sleep. Like death, it puts even the most powerful men on their backs.