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Midshipmen Successful at San Remo Law of Armed Conflict Competition

  POSTED ON: Monday, April 16, 2018 11:28 AM by LCDR Paige J. Ormiston, JAGC, USN, Assistant Professor, Military Law

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – On March 19-23, 2018, Midshipmen Ted Johnson, Kelsey Melinosky, Paige Monk, Hannah Rose, Brendan O'Donoghue, and Kurt Zepeda joined over 60 other service academy cadets from around the world for the 17th Annual Military Academies Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) Competition hosted by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law at their headquarters in San Remo, Italy. The competition, which is held in San Remo each Spring, is a simulation-based competition that aims to teach midshipmen and cadets LOAC and its application within the context of contemporary armed conflict. It is intended to compliment the national training of LOAC and to ensure that military cadets develop an early appreciation of the critical importance of LOAC in multinational military operations.

Each individual academy team of three midshipmen or cadets was separated into multiple mixed teams to ensure that each mixed team contained at least one native English speaker.  Naval Academy Midshipmen were placed on teams with cadets from Malawi, France, Nigeria, Indonesia, Germany, Thailand, Rwanda, and Virginia Military Institute.  The mixed teams are assembled to make a level playing field regardless of native tongue, reducing competitive stress between the military academies, and ensuring maximum international exposure for the competitors.  The USNA teams began meeting in January for an hour each week that included group discussion and lecture in addition to significant amounts of individual preparation.

MIDN 1/C Kurt Zepeda’s team, which included cadets from Germany and Rwanda, received First Place as a mixed team in the competition.  MIDN 1/C Brendan O’Donoghue’s team, including cadets from France and Nigeria, placed Second.  MIDN 1/C Hannah Rose’s team, including cadets from Malawi and Virginia Military Institute, placed Fourth.  The top five individual competitors and the top five mixed teams were recognized for their skill on the final day of the competition.

The competition had two phases:  preliminary and practical.   Monday comprised the preliminary phase of the Competition which included a day of interactive lectures on various aspects of LOAC to ensure all cadets have a base level of knowledge.

Following the lectures on Monday, the teams assembled in the exhibition hall for Culture Night.  Each team dressed in their “national costume”, decorated a table and provided food and beverages from their nation, as well as small trinkets to give to the other teams.  USNA chose to serve American snack food including peanut butter bars, Maryland Crab chips, Girl Scout cookies, Rice Krispie treats, and root beer while dressed as their favorite Marvel superheroes.

The team sampled Thai dried fruits and juices, Swiss fondue, French wine and cheese, Italian focaccia and Nutella, Norwegian brown cheese and cured meats, Rwandan banana wine, Dutch desserts, German bread and beer, and British high tea with cakes and biscuits. The Dutch team once again suspended dessert from a rope, making jumping for cake a highlight of the evening.

The practical phase of the Competition began on Tuesday when the problem was handed out to all teams. This competition phase was conducted in four simulated Joint Operations Centers (JOC). Each JOC was composed of mixed teams of two or three cadets from different military academies.  In the JOC sessions, each mixed team represented the same fictitious country for the entire competition, each of which was given specific instructions from its government and had different political and military priorities. The judges were aware of these various instructions, and cadets were evaluated on how they balanced these different national instructions and LOAC. Each JOC had a JOC Leader who was an experienced military lawyer and who questioned and challenged each team on the various problems that arose during the exercise.  The JOC leaders hailed from the UK, USA, Netherlands, and Republic of South Africa.

Because the composition of the participants was rich in military diversity, the fictitious JOC scenario also reflected such diversity, with fictitious nations covering the full spectrum of large to medium and lesser powers. As cadets and midshipmen in the competition represented the future military leaders from their respective countries, the focus of the competition exercise was to enable cadets and midshipmen to become familiar with the “bigger picture” in addition to what happens at the lower level of command.

In addition to the competition itself, the midshipmen enjoyed an afternoon and evening exploring Nice, France before the competition began.   They traveled to San Remo, Italy the following day in order to get settled and prepared to compete. All of the coaches and competitors ate lunch together at the Institute each day and had an opportunity to discuss our nation’s academies, our missions, and interpretation of international law.  Those conversations continued during PT, dinner, and sightseeing each evening.  After the competition concluded, the USNA team invited West Point to join them on the train to Monaco for sightseeing on Friday afternoon.  They explored the palace, the cathedral, the old town, and parts of the F1 race course.  On Saturday morning, the team boarded the train to Milan and arrived in time to spend most of Saturday exploring the city, viewing the Duomo, touring Sforza Castle, enjoying an outdoor concert at the Victory Arch, and shopping in the oldest covered shopping area in Western Europe.  Friendships formed over the course of the week that will benefit the participants for the rest of their careers.

 For more information about the Competition, visit

Category: People, Academics, General Interest