Sunday, May 25, 2014

Future Military Leaders from the Air Force Academy Win National Title in International Humanitarian Law Competition

The Air Force Academy Class of 2014 will be graduating as military Officers May 28, 2014. For all, it was a long, hard earned journey. Each Officer has prepared for new assignments, many involving international posts. 

In preparation for these international posts, many cadets complete international studies and gain knowledge in International Humanitarian Law – a set of rules and guidelines that the International Committee of the Red Cross played a foundational role in creating, and which to this day form an essential element of the Red Cross mission.
Air Force Academy Faculty coach Maj. Amer Mahmud with Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition National Champions Ashleigh Hammer, Adalys Ramirez and Benjamin Pearson inside the American Red Cross National Headquarters. 
Local Cadets Ashleigh Hammer, Benjamin Pearson and Adalys Ramirez will be among the 2014 graduates entering the military as 2nd Lieutenants. They recently united together to compete in and win a first-ever nationwide Red Cross International Humanitarian Law competition.  It was quite a feat for the local team: they beat out competitors including older graduate students from the top 10 U.S. law schools.

For these three local Cadets, the competition represented the most significant and inspirational aspects of wearing the Air Force uniform:  saving lives, and developing highly skilled knowledge of international humanitarian law. 

“I hadn’t had any legal exposure until my pre-requisite law course. However, I felt passionately about legal rights and how it can save lives,” Cadet Hammer said.  

Air Force Academy team in their professional civilian attire
after four rounds of the competition in Washington, D.C. 
The Air Force Academy has a tradition of entering international humanitarian law competitions in Italy, Switzerland and Thailand. “This year, our coach notified us about the first Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law competition in Washington D.C.,” Hammer recalled. “We were so excited because we thought all the competitions were over… it’s crucial to have a competition like this to bring about more awareness for IHL in the U.S."

Hammer teamed up with Ben Pearson, who has extensive knowledge of IHL criminal court cases, and Adalys Ramirez, who was their competition research lead as well as the costume and design expert. 
“It was the additional details in our arguments and the willingness to respond quickly to scenarios that gave us the edge over law schools like Harvard,” Hammer said.
The National Champion
trophy for the AFA team.

“Getting involved in the IHL competitions with the Academy is very competitive,” said Ramirez, who is originally from Humacao, Puerto Rico. “I had been working on a number of moot court, mock trials and really identified with preparing for the roles of the witness. It is important to me to consider the whole identity of the witness including the details of their lives. I think that’s why it was natural for me to assume the role of the researcher in our Clara Barton IHL competition and fill-in the details with props, costumes and roles for the scenarios where we were the ICRC representatives inspecting a prison camp.”  

Other teams were impressed and often asked the team “How do you know so much about international humanitarian law?”

“We could only tell them that as military service personnel, it is our job to know international humanitarian law. We have to know it because it saves lives,” Ramirez said, echoing Hammer’s passion. 

Hammer was one of two officers, out of 1,000, appointed to a Juris Doctor program at Texas Tech. Ramirez will begin training for an language immersion assignment in Chile after graduation. Her position required prior human rights and IHL work to build a career as a Security Officer.

The Red Cross wishes the Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition National Champions, their coach Major Mahmud, faculty sponsor Chad Austin and all the Cadets success in their pursuits and thanks them for their dedicated service.

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