GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Schuyler Cottrell

A Farewell To Brussels

As our time in Brussels comes to a close, I’d like to take this chance to reflect on all of the incredible experiences we’ve had here. This study abroad program has taken the group to many places we would not have been otherwise able to access, and allowed us to speak with representatives from all aspects of European governance (and economics, security, human rights, etc.). I think it’s appropriate that we take a minute to share our favorite experiences here.

Of all the opportunities this program has given me in Belgium, I think my favorite has to be the chance to visit SHAPE and speak with NATO officials. It was somewhat surreal to be on the bus as it pulled up next to the fences around the compound and realize “This is where some of the greatest military minds in the world are working together.” It was not until we got inside that I realized they weren’t just working together to prepare for the possibility of war, but also to prevent conflict from occurring at all. While it is normally thought that the political arm of NATO is responsible for most of the deterrence carried out by the organization, the briefings we had revealed that a fair amount of actions involving military components are intended to prevent aggression by hostile actors and preserve the peace. The extent to which this is effective can be argued, but the fact that SHAPE’s operations are not all focused on war is encouraging for the future of European security.

Inside SHAPE, I would have to say that my favorite area was the office of the SACEUR, General Breedlove (Georgia Tech Class of 77). The history in that room: from the desk used by Eisenhower to activate SHAPE, to the globe around which many SACEURs have had conversations with world leaders, to the medallions from armed forces around the world, this room seemed to be a museum of military history. I was particularly impressed by the wall Gen. Breedlove dedicated to the men and women of the allied armed forces, with pictures of soldiers adorning an entire side of the room. It was truly a pleasure to tour SHAPE and I once again must thank General Breedlove for his support of the Yellow Jackets.

Now to my classmates: what was your favorite part of our time in Brussels?

SHAPE: Our Day in the Military HQ of NATO

Today we took a trip to the Strategic Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe, or SHAPE. The 8 am departure time for our bus was a cause for groans from the class, but after all was said and done, I think we all agree it was well worth the trip.

The SHAPE military base in Mons, Belgium serves as the military HQ of NATO and the home of the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR). As such, security was very tight (although somehow we were allowed into the military base of NATO but not its political center) and we were handed passes on the bus by our guide, a political action officer from Poland. When we walked into the main office building, we were immediately surrounded by soldiers from every NATO member country. They were all wearing their country’s camouflage or dress uniforms, and the only way to distinguish between a French naval officer and an Italian air force commander was the flag on their sleeves. With this mixing of nationalities, I would have expected that communication would have been difficult. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when we figured out that everyone there spoke English.

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