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?