2019 NATO LREC Story by: LCDR Phillip McCorvey

The NATO LREC consisted of visits to four NATO commands, two UK commands, the 75th anniversary of D-DAY ceremony, and six separate nations. This trip granted the midshipmen a unique opportunity to develop both wide ranging cultural experiences as well as in-depth knowledge of the NATO structure, a critical component of the ongoing competition against America’s near-peer adversaries.

LCDR Phillip McCorvey led this LREC and selected six midshipmen for this program; 1/C Caitlin Schmitt, 1/C Luke Goergen, 2/C Rose Gasper, 2/C Riley Domler, 2/C Kristina Dzhandzhapanyan, and 2/C Ryan Rodriguez.

The trip began in Brussels, Belgium in order to gain a top-down overview of NATO from NATO Headquarters. In addition to numerous briefs detailing the structure and daily activities of NATO HQ, the midshipmen were granted the opportunity to speak with Major General Love, commanding officer of the American military committee. Following the visit to HQ, the LREC group explored the cities of Brussels and Ghent to develop a cultural understanding of Belgian culture.

After a weekend spent in Brussels, including a visit to the American Military Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg, the LREC traveled to Joint Forces Command Brunssum where NATO personnel described the role of a Joint Force Command in both standard peacetime training activities, as well as their role if conflict were to arise. This visit truly emphasized the role of consensus and cooperation within NATO (29 nations), because all operational units still remain under the command of sovereign nations, creating difficulty or delay if a situation requires a rapid response.

From Brunssum, the LREC traveled to Mons, Belgium to visit Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Here the top-down pieces were put in place, understanding the role SHAPE plays in supplying military advice up the chain of command to the MILREP personnel in Brussels, and the tasking relationship it has with its subordinate joint forces and hardware commands. A trip to Mons would not be complete without a day trip to Waterloo, learning the role this area took in the Napoleonic wars and WWI.

At the conclusion of this visit, the LREC traveled to France in order to attend the American and French ceremony honoring the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion located at Omaha Beach. The group agreed that this was the most memorable and impactful experience of this trip. Especially the conversations had with veterans who served in WWII, some of whom were on the beaches of Normandy, that fateful day 75 years ago. The experiences and stories shared by those who were willing to sacrifice everything in support of freedom and against tyranny around the world, were awe-inspiring. This was an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity, that will have a dramatic effect on the midshipmen for years to come.

After the ceremony, the group visited Paris in order to explore the city and increase awareness of French culture, a staunch ally of America for many centuries. In addition to Paris, the LREC visited much of the French countryside and the tourist attraction of Mont St. Michel before traveling across the Channel to England.

While staying in Plymouth at HMNB Devonport, the LREC took a day trip to Dartmouth where they visited the Britannia Royal Naval College and were granted the opportunity to meet with numerous midshipmen in order to gain an understanding of the training pipeline for British Royal Naval officers. In addition to the BRNC, in Plymouth, the midshipmen were invited on board a Portuguese frigate to observe an air defense training exercise at the Flag Officer Ship Training command (FOST). FOST (a Royal Navy training command) also serves as a training group for NATO ships before they are deployed to serve in the NATO standing maritime groups. This experience on board a foreign naval vessel, allowed the midshipmen to gain an understanding of both the commonalities and differences of U.S. Navy operational and allied nations procedures.

While traveling to London for the final NATO visit at Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) in Northwood, the LREC traveled to the ancient Roman city of Bath and took a quick peek at Stonehenge. At MARCOM, the midshipmen received briefs regarding the tactical level operational planning process there, and at other NATO commands. This visit proved vital as it served as an effective conclusion for the trip, which began at the top, NATO HQ, ending at the operational level. The ‘top-down’ structure to the trip allowed the midshipmen to gain a thorough understanding of NATO from all levels of the process.

At the trips conclusion, the LREC traveled to Brussels where their flight home awaited. During the transit, they were able to view the White Cliffs of Dover and make a quick stop in Bruges, Belgium. All in all, the trip was amazing and the midshipmen are forever grateful for the opportunity to grow as individuals while also increasing their military knowledge. Both which will serve them well in the fleet.

Created By
Josiah Pearce

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