The U.S. Air Force Academy Approach to Model United Nations

by Conna Walsh on October 11, 2017

This article was written by Ryan Harden, a Cadet in his final year at the U.S. Air Force Academy and a member of Cadet Squadron 24.  Currently, he is expected to graduate in May 2018 with a B.S. in Economics.  He considers New Hampshire, Maryland, and Washington D.C. as his ‘home.’  Additionally, the views expressed in the article by Ryan do not represent the views of United States Air Force Academy, the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  This article was a collaboration between Ryan and Jonah Bhide, the MUN team captain, who edited the article.

From 2010 to 2013, a man from rural Washington assumed command of the most hostile region in the world. Dubbed the “Warrior Monk” for his intellectualism in the upper ranks of the Marine Corps, Secretary James Mattis would haul his 6,000 book library collection with him when he deployed to Central Command. As the Unified Combatant Commander, he joined the ranks of other famous military leaders and stood out as one of the most credible and knowledgeable men when facing threats from violent extremist organizations.

In a testimony on Capitol Hill, he eloquently stated “[if] you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately,” demonstrating the tradeoffs between “hard” and “soft” power. Further, this line exemplified the fundamental ties between the Department of State and the Department of Defense; or, more aptly, diplomacy and war.  

At the U.S. Air Force Academy, we understand the strength of words and diplomacy. Often, in the political arena, rhetoric has the ability to diffuse tension, mitigate conflict outbreaks, and promote prosperity through universal values. Further, the Service Academies and the Model UN Team strive to promote the importance of diplomatic affairs and the significant impact it can have on national security and global preeminence. Whether the two are promoted independently or jointly is less of a concern than the emphasis that is placed on furthering cooperation and peace. More simply, our team provides a foundation for both young men and women to learn how decisions by military and civilian leaders are made in the context of international relations.

Our team would not be recognizable to old members. Over the past three years, our organization has risen from a “one-conference-a-season” team to one that has seen success in a variety of settings that range from more traditional structures to crisis-oriented conferences. The team is more ambitious than ever, and coupled with renewed vigor and robust practice schedule, the Academy’s Model UN Team has set itself on a hopeful and promising vector.


The U.S. Air Force Academy Model UN team at UCLA’s LAMUN 2017, where they won Outstanding Small Delegation.

To elaborate, over the past season the Academy’s Team has reaped the benefits of institutional recognition and support through growing the team in size and experience while remaining as an increasingly motivated and ambitious campus club. For example, whether our team went to North West MUN in Seattle, to the International Model NATO Conference, or to UCLA’s annual conference, our team won in each arena. For the first time in school history, the team became ranked in the nation’s Top 75 teams based on just UCLA’s conference. Thankfully, the team’s drastic improvement was captured by our resident Dean of Faculty that recognized the Academy’s Model UN Team as one of the four “Dean’s Teams” and one of the most prestigious debate-oriented teams at this institution.

However, the positive results stemmed from both luck and preparation. Our team has a very methodological practice schedule by hosting panels that discuss various issues that pertain to a member’s country assignments; strategic explorations that enrich a delegation’s knowledge; and connect debate in the context of international affairs and the U.S. Air Force.

As military members of the U.S. Air Force, much of our time is dedicated to cadet military training – whether that is landing a glider, flying Cessna aircraft, field training, or parachuting. We draw on these experiences in preparation and execution; our team can respond to high-stress, intensive situations with poise, tact, and resolve both in and out of committee.

The U.S. Air Force’s responsibilities and capabilities are often left exclusively to those in uniform. We hope through engagement with civilian college students that our team will be able to share best practices with other universities. The Academy’s Team operates on the philosophy that a shared expertise of diplomacy and knowledge between military personnel and civilians will not only make good officers, but further civilian-military relations. Through understanding the professional challenges of our peers, we hope to learn from our military counterparts and enhance our capabilities in the future to protect and defend the United States from all enemies; foreign and domestic.  

Most importantly, we hope to share in the dialogue between civilians and military members. For other students around the country, it may be a unique opportunity for them to learn about like-minded individuals who are committed to the U.S. Government and to national security. By interacting and exchanging goals, perspectives, dreams, hopes, and desires, we hope to foster a greater sense of commitment to service. Whether the service is achieved through Teach for America, the Armed Forces, advocating for civil liberties, we hope to truly work towards a nation where the best, smartest, most-talented individuals employ the philosophy of non sibi – not for one’s self. This, simply, is why we compete.  

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