Academy Cadets Take First Place in Humanitarian Law Competition

A team from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy took first place at the Sanremo International Institute of Humanitarian Law Competition for Military Academies, March 25, 2021. The competition is an annual, weeklong event that brings cadets from military academies throughout the world to work together in multinational teams to solve complex problems that arise before, during, and after a simulated armed conflict. (U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Hunter Medley)

A team from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy took first place at the Sanremo International Institute of Humanitarian Law Competition for Military Academies, March 25, 2021. (U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Hunter Medley)

NEW LONDON, Conn. – A team from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy took first place at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law Competition for Military Academies.

First-Class Cadets Matthew Pindell, Malia Haskovec, and Sean Seyller were joined by cadets from the U.S. Military Academy and the Military Institute of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev to compete against other multinational teams in the tournament on March 22-25. The team shared top honors with another group of cadets from West Point, the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, and the National Defense Academy of Georgia.

The International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL) has earned a reputation as a center of excellence in the field of training, research, and the dissemination of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC). The Competition for Military Academies is an annual, weeklong event that brings cadets from military academies throughout the world to Sanremo, a Mediterranean coastal town in northwestern Italy. Due to the global pandemic, this year’s competition was hosted virtually and took place over four days.

“The competition is a unique opportunity for our cadets to engage in quality interactions with foreign cadets and military officers that results in a rich cultural experience for the future leaders of the U.S. Coast Guard to share ideas, and forge lasting relationships,” said Cmdr. Jonathan Shumate, Chief of the Law Section at CGA.

During the competition, cadets work together in multinational teams to solve complex problems that arise before, during, and after a simulated armed conflict. The goals of the competition are to allow cadets to apply and display their LOAC knowledge.

The Coast Guard cadets were led by Lt. Cmdr. Jim Zoll from the Law Section of the CGA Humanities Department, who worked with them throughout the semester in his Advanced Studies class on the Law of Armed Conflict to prepare them for the competition.

During the first day of the competition, senior military attorneys from the U.S. and Austria gave lectures on various LOAC topics, including Lt. Cmdr. Zoll who lectured on the Law of the Sea Convention and the rules of naval warfare.

On days two and three, cadets from thirteen military academies representing nine nations were divided into multinational teams and immersed in a wartime scenario where they were required to work together to apply the LOAC and decide the legality of proposed military actions during the fictional war.

On the final day, the multinational teams were required to provide oral briefs to a senior military commander and communicate their conclusions about whether their proposed military actions agreed with the LOAC. Cadets were expected to provide comprehensive briefs, cite specific relevant treaties, and advise what the law allows while also offering opinions on whether the proposed action would further the strategic goals of the fictional nations. If a proposed course action was deemed unlawful or unwise, cadets were expected to provide suitable alternatives.

“The reason we did well in this competition was not only because our cadets had a good understanding of the law of armed conflict,” Zoll said, “but also because they were able to work together with their teammates to ensure that each member’s ideas were heard and acknowledged. The institute refers to this as the ‘Spirit of Sanremo’.”

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