Ample Strike 2017: Students on the Military Field

Live from the battlefield: AAU students on Ample Strike

On Sep 4–5, five AAU students had the chance to visit the military base in Namest nad Oslavou to participate in Ample Strike 2017. The trip, as a part of the NATO Virtual Academy program, gave them an invaluable experience, where they learned about security, civilian-military relations, and defense through practice.

Ample Strike 2017 is an annual program of military exercises hosted by the Czech Republic. This year, nearly 40 planes and helicopters as well as more than 1,300 soldiers from 18 different armies have participated in this event.

The students were amazed by the unique experience, particularly the “role-playing VIPs” exercise. In this exercise, they were put into the position of diplomats or journalists under attack, being rescued by the military members. The so-called “VIPs” were given a bullet-proof vest and a helmet, which added up to 15 kilos of equipment in total.

Kenneth Ali Shaheed, a third-year student who had spent 20 years serving the Special Operations for the U.S government in Afghanistan, said he “felt right at home” in the exercise.

“I was happy to revisit and use my military training to help make our task as beneficial as possible for the military members protecting us,” said Kenneth, although admitting that the exercise was both stressful and exhilarating.

“Stressful because of the physical task of running and taking cover, exhilarating due to the simulated firefight going on all around us,” Kenneth shared. “It was a great experience and, in my professional opinion, provided the exercise with the real training for protecting civilians during conflict.”

Lucie Vankova, a master’s candidate, confirmed the feeling of excitement and chaos during the exercise.

“I just heard loud shootings and ‘my soldier’ grabbed me by the neck and started shouting at me with directions about where to go and what to do.” Lucie described, admitting that during the turbulence, sometimes she couldn’t grasp what was happening. “The run was very exhausting with all the equipment on me. I remember I fell once pretty badly […] I just had to trust the soldiers and listen to their orders to stay alive.”

“Even though it was just role-playing, it felt real!” shared Vanda Proskova, another student who participated in the NATO Virtual Academy program. “And despite it being scary, I found myself trusting them and feeling safe under their protection. I think we all realized even more, what being a soldier means.”

At the end of the visit to the helicopter airbase, the guests visited the permanent exhibition learning about the history of the Náměšť crew.

“The entire visit was truly exciting, informative, eye-opening and simply amazing,” said Adela Jirickova, who helped Dr. Soukupova with the development of NATO Virtual Academy.

Adela has been interested in military and security for a few years, even before visiting Ample Strike 2017. This was a unique opportunity for her to accompany the theories she had learnt in the textbooks with practice.

“The soldiers also gave us several presentations concerning different topics,” said Adela. “They live [a life] that we only know as a theory. They explain the topics effectively and give real examples.”

“Participating in the exercise brought to light the dangers diplomats may face while performing their duties on foreign soil or a hostile environment,” said Kenneth. “It also showed me how effective the cooperation between NATO countries is during the joint exercise.”

“I think there should be “personal experience” in more classes at AAU,” said Lucie, noting that the practice is always different from the theory. “This seems to be the future of top quality education and I really hope that AAU supports Dr. Soukupova in her efforts to provide such excellent standards of education.”

Read more about Dr. Kristina Soukupova: The Mastermind Behind NATO Virtual Academy, here.

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