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ODU/NATO Middle East Crisis Simulation Planned for Monday

With a simulation that could be ripped from the headlines, more than 30 Old Dominion University students will explore NATO's response to a Middle East crisis that threatens to throw the world into political - and perhaps military - conflict. The event is part of the annual Decision-Making Simulation 2011, which will be held Monday, March 21, and staged by NATO's Allied Command Transformation (ACT) based in Norfolk. The exercise is facilitated by the visualization capabilities of ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) in Suffolk.

The exercise is designed to provide students with exposure to the high-level decision-making process used by NATO. In this year's crisis-action exercise, the students will find themselves involved in an area of the world that has challenged global stability - namely, the Arabian Gulf, where free passage must be ensured to maintain international stability. Escalating tensions continue in the Greater Middle East, providing a realistic backdrop of issues that confront the international community and NATO, for example, the cease-fire and much-debated "No Fly Zone" in Libya.

While participants have received briefing materials about the North Atlantic Council (NAC), NATO and the countries they represent, the actual crisis will be predictable but unexpected. The simulation will be conducted in a VMASC meeting room set up to resemble a NAC crisis center, with huge screens onto which intelligence reports, history reports, maps, international media reports and other pertinent information can be projected.

In the past few years, ACT has conducted simulations on college campuses, mostly in Europe, but also at Harvard University and the U.S. Naval Academy, to test how technology can best be harnessed to help improve the assessment and decision-making skills of students.

This exercise builds on the 16-year partnership between ACT and ODU, according to Dick Whalen, the retired Navy captain who is the university's director of military activities. Separate to the simulation, ACT supports in concert with ODU a NATO "Fusion Center," located in the university's Innovation Research Park. This collaboration with ACT provides ODU valuable internship opportunities, while offering international studies students a real-time look into unclassified NATO activity.

"This exercise provides students a rare chance to jump into the geopolitical arena, and experience significant decision-making pressures," said Whalen. "In the end, they'll hopefully come away with new a understanding of what's actually behind tonight's 'breaking news' and, more importantly, a measure of self-confidence in their ability to function in this demanding environment."

A memorandum of understanding between ACT and ODU extends "a cooperative mode of operation in the interest of sharing resources, which supports the missions of both parties, and which enables individuals associated with both to benefit from the wealth of expertise represented," Whalen said.

This article was posted on: March 21, 2011

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