WASHINGTON, DC— The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus completed its eleventh year as 10 students from across the United States participated in the 17-day program held June 18 to July 5, 2019. Following two days of briefings in Washington, DC, and a five-day visit to Cyprus, the student trip visited Athens, June 27 to July 5, 2019. The student group took one of those days in Greece to visit NSA Souda Bay, Crete, on June 28.
“Greece is a dependable and vital United States ally and NATO partner as well as a frontline state against terrorism,” said President Nick Larigakis. “Our itinerary in Greece aimed to educate the community’s next generation of leaders about the Greece’s geostrategic importance, which includes NSA Souda Bay, and how Greece, via Souda Bay, contributes significantly to security interests in the region. The students learned firsthand how Souda Bay provides critical operational support to U.S., allied, and coalition forces deployed within the European Command, Central Command, and African Command’s areas of responsibility.”
The group took a flight to Chania, Crete and were welcomed by Brigadier Stylianos Gasparakis and Major Emmanuouil Ntoukakis. Upon arrival to the base, Commodore Theodoros Mitropoulos, H.N., who is the base commander, greeted the students.
A tour of NSA Souda Bay included a visit to NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center (NMIOTC) and a briefing provided by Commodore Stelios Kostalas, N.N. The students learned about NMIOTC’s purpose and capabilities. Opened in 2008, NMIOTIC provides training for allies and partners of NATO, enabling them to better execute maritime interdiction operations. Greece also lends its maritime expertise which includes extensive experience with commercial shipping and port security.
From there, the students met with Brigadier Stylianos Gasparakis to learn about the Fifth Mechanical Brigade at the brigade’s headquarters.
Another important facet of NSA Souda Bay is the NATO Missile Firing Installation, which the students also toured. NAMFI’s commander, Brigadier Kleanthis Karatsin, provided a briefing to the group. NAMFI is the only ground-to-air/surface missile firing range in Europe that provides missile training for NATO forces.
During the visit to NAMFI, the students enjoyed lunch at NAMFI’s Officers Club where the unit commanders participated.
Finally, the students toured the 115 Combat Wing and received a briefing from Colonel Evaggelos Tzikas, before departed that night for Athens. The students learned the Combat Wing is utilized heavily by the United States and NATO. For example, more than 2,500 U.S. and NATO planes utilized it in 2017. They also had the unique opportunity to experience an F-16 flight simulator and test their fighter pilot skills.
“Our meetings with defense and military officials at Souda Bay…helped me understand the strategic importance of Greece to U.S. geostrategic interests to a degree I did not imagine possible in under three weeks,” said Participant Basiliki Speros.
“I also had the unique chance to participate in meaningful discourse with government and military officials that enact and carry out the policies which shape these issues,” added Participant Demosthenes Theofanopoulos. “I hope to take this newfound knowledge home with me and look upon myself to see what I can do.”
About Our Participants
Alexandra Choate is a senior at Queens University of Charlotte pursuing a Political Science undergraduate degree.
Vasili Ioannidis is a junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan majoring in Economics with a minor in Modern Greek Language and Culture.
George P. Limperis is a sophomore who begins his studies in Business at the Hult International Business School, in the United Kingdom this fall.
Emily Pandis is a graduate of The Ohio State University, triple majored in International Relations and Diplomacy, Islamic Studies and Modern Greek with a minor in History.
Apostolos Siopsis is a sophomore at the George Washington University where he was awarded the Tuition Exchange Scholarship offered to only four applicants per year.
Basiliki Speros, a 2018-2019 EOK Hellenic Women’s Scholarship Recipient, is BA-MA candidate in International Relations and Business at New York University.
Demosthenes Theofanopoulos is a junior at Fordham University studying Classical Civilization and minoring in Orthodox Christianity.
John Tsaousis is a junior pursuing a Civil and Infrastructure Engineering degree at George Mason University.
Konstantinos Tsarouchis is a junior at American University pursing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a concentration in Political Theory.
Sophia Yphantides is a sophomore at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where she plans to major in International Politics with a concentration in International Law, Institutions, and Ethics.