Academy competes against international schools in Forensics Classic

Cadet 4th Class Thomas Woodward (left) and Cadet 3rd Class Ellen Munsil prepare to debate at the Forensics Classic in Fairchild Hall Sept. 27. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Liz Copan)

Cadet 4th Class Thomas Woodward (left) and Cadet 3rd Class Ellen Munsil prepare to debate at the Forensics Classic in Fairchild Hall Sept. 27. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Liz Copan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- This year Academy took their annual forensics tournament to a new level--drawing in competition from across the world.

The Air Force Academy held its 51st Forensics Classic Sept. 27-29 in Fairchild Hall incorporating over 400 competitors from 39 schools in 20 states and 6 countries. The tournament consisted of 11 speech events, and for the first time included participants and judges from the Philippines, South Africa, Israel, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia.

"It allowed the Academy to become players in international discussion and debate," said Gina Iberri-Shea, the Academy's director of forensics. "Forensics allows cadets to think critically. There were faculty and students in attendance who've never been exposed to military personnel and operations. I received great feedback on how professional and well-spoken cadets were throughout the tournament."

The tournament was sponsored by the Academy's forensics team and the Department of English and Fine Arts. Fourth-class cadets put their debate skills to the test as competitors in the novice levels of individual and team events.

Cadets 4th Class Jack Nordell and Andrew Flegge took first in Novice Extemporaneous Speaking, second in Novice Impromptu, and second in the Novice Parliamentary Debate.

"The Academy's team was very successful," Nordell said. "Most of the freshmen were competing at their first ever forensics tournament. The forensics community is unique in the sense that it's a collection of highly intelligent, personable, and interesting people. I greatly enjoyed interacting with a range of competitors from novice freshmen like myself to seasoned debaters from the European circuit."

The final round of the tournament occurred at the Falcon Club, and Arizona State University was crowned the winner of the overall tournament.

"It was a pleasure to judge such talented and dedicated students," said Capt. Katherine Plichta, an instructor with the Academy's English and Fine Arts Department and judge at the tournament. "I was blown away by the talent of the students this year. The ability to memorize a work and recite it, while being authentic to the emotions of those characters is something very difficult to do."

Nordell said participants inquired about the Academy and cadet life throughout the tournament.

"I think the tournament is an invaluable outreach that improves appreciation for the military and our lifestyle with all its privileges and significant sacrifices," Nordell said. "I feel it's important to share our incredible resources such as Fairchild Hall with the general public on occasion, and our tournament is an opportunity to do so."

Last year, the Academy's team qualified for the world's most exclusive forensics competition in Indonesia, ranking among the top 30 teams in the world. The Academy's forensics team was established in 1955 and has continued to rank within the top 8 percent in the world.

"Our debate team has an illustrious history and has produced numerous outstanding leaders for the Air Force," Nordell said. "I hope that when the time comes for my class to graduate, the debate team is stronger than ever and can continue to educate motivated cadets well into the future."

The Academy's Dean of the Faculty Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost said he was thrilled to attend and take part in this year's Forensics Classic.

"This internationally recognized event attracts the best orators and debaters in the world," he said. "I was proud of our Department of English and Fine Arts and our Forensics coach, Dr. Gina Iberri-Shea, for their tremendous efforts in organizing this world-class tournament. Our cadets not only competed in the tournament, but they worked countless hours pulling together all the logistical details for this event. It was also wonderful to see the willingness of employees throughout the Dean of Faculty to spend time judging the different events. Without everyone working together, the tournament would not have been a success. "