SANDS students visit Europe, gain new perspectives

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Charles Welty
  • Air University Public Affairs

Students from Air University’s School of Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies met with European allies last month to gain new perspectives and alternative views on how different parts of the world define nuclear deterrence.

During the trip, held March 9-17, students visited with military leaders from France, England and U.S. European Command.

The ultimate objective, however, for the school’s capstone event was driven by Air Force leadership.

“The vice chief of staff of the Air Force charged our students with educating the rest of the force on the vital role nuclear deterrence plays in our country’s national strategy,” said Maj. Patrick Yanez, SANDS instructor. “The trip to Europe introduced our students to nuclear deterrence experts from (foreign nations) and facilitated dialogue to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of differing nuclear deterrence strategies.”

“One could not summarize such a valuable trip only by mentioning a single event,” said SANDS student Lt. Col. Romain Béthoux of the French air force. SANDS student. “The variety of experiences made the whole trip an amazing adventure. By visiting three different countries and discussing with an array of experts in nuclear deterrence from multiple nations, sharing our perspectives on this crucial subject, spending time together as a unique team … the temporary duty in Europe is definitely one of the most beneficial parts of the SANDS course.”

Having moved to Air University from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, in late 2018, SANDS is the Air Force’s premier program on strategic deterrence, hosting 12 to 15 students each year from the Air Force, Army, Navy and an international officer from either the United Kingdom or France.

“Having SANDS at AU has allowed the program to leverage the resources the campus has to offer,” Yanez said. “The access to world-class professors, as well as the distinguished visitors from both military and civilian backgrounds, has immensely added to the overall program.”

In a previous article about SANDS’ move to AU under Air Command and Staff College, Dr. Melvin Deaile, SANDS director, said the program plays a vital role in the security of the U.S., its allies and partner nations because of how important nuclear deterrence is for the national defense strategy.

“Completing SANDS has provided several new tools for my toolkit,” said Maj. Adrian Zollinger, SANDS student. “We don't get much training on the theory behind deterrence at our technical schools or on the job. SANDS addresses that deficiency in a very real way. It also bridges the gaps among nuclear, conventional and irregular deterrence. This perspective will help me throughout my career as I work to better educate my career field as a whole on the theory behind our mission and the views of sister services and international partners.”

More information about SANDS can be found on their website or twitter.