Your NSE Team
Military Code: 9205 423 then extn.
Civilian Code: 0032 (0) 65 44 then extn.
Head of Location
WO1 (Debs) Fairclough x 2697
5521 / 5239 / 5223 / 8033 / 8669
PO Peter Davidson (post gapped until 22 Mar 21)
Cpl Oliver Hebson
AB Fred Perry
Mrs. Carolyn James
Mrs. Linda Sheehan
Community Hub – +32 (0) 47696 6525 / +32 (0) 479911054 / +32 (0) 653 36498 / HIVE +32 (0) 471611678
Host Nation Liaison Officer
Mrs Nadia El Hamdi
Community Liaison Officers
Mrs. Vic Hobby
Mrs. Claire Mellor
Mrs. Siobhan Smith
Mrs Hannah Smith
Sgt Saimone Talevinukuleka
Mrs Merit Finneran
Mr Ray Larkin
Community Message from the SNR
23 November 2020
As I start to write this message, I am listening to our nation’s foremost Latin Scholar speak to the House of Commons about the defence budget. It is making for very encouraging listening indeed: over £16 billion of extra money across the next four years, a once-in-a-generation modernisation programme, and a commitment to put the Alliance at the front and centre of Britain’s defence. This is very much the sort of thing Prime Ministers said back when I joined the Service. That change of fortune for Defence inevitably brings to mind the words of another famous Latin scholar: rotam uolubili orbe uersamus, infima summis summa infimis mutare gaudemus. For those of you who don’t have a residence permit for the Middle Ages, those words were written by a Roman consul who had fallen from favour and knew a thing or two about reversals of fortune. Boethius saw that if the good times are always passing away, he could philosophically console himself that the bad times always passed too.
Stuck in the middle of another COVID-19 lockdown, that is quite a helpful thing to remember. Perhaps we are already seeing positive signs. Even in Belgium, one of the worse affected countries in Europe, almost all infection metrics have begun to drop over the last week. The Reproduction Rate (R), deaths, hospital admissions, intensive care loading, and positive coronavirus tests are all lower this Friday than they were last. To add to the good news, several vaccine projects look set to deliver working vaccines by the end of the year; a prospect the Prime Minister memorably described as the coming of the scientific cavalry, even if we can, so far, only hear the far off toots of their bugles in the distance.
But you don’t need to be a virologist to know that we are still facing a difficult winter. The lockdown has flattened the curve, but we know only too well from the experience of the late summer that one can only appeal so far to people’s sense of personal responsibility. If the restrictions are lifted, people will want to get back to the old normal and it will not be long before cases start to surge again. For normality to be an option we really need the vaccine. If the scientific cavalry are anything like the real-life cavalry then they could easily get lost, they are likely to be late, and, to stretch the metaphor, if they bump into a cheap source of Pol Roger champagne, we are likely to not see them at all.
We must be prepared for restrictions of one sort or another to be in place for a long time yet. As people become more tired of them, enforcement is likely to get stricter. Alexander De Croo has already said that the federal police will be on patrol to ensure that rules on gatherings are observed over Christmas. “The virus will still be there, so one needs to be careful” he said, “I, too, would like to be able to meet more people but I shall spend the holidays with the people who live under my roof.” At home we know that the government has a similarly difficult balance to strike between people’s need to relax over Christmas and the potential misery of a third wave a few weeks later.
One area where the government has taken notice is the tough situation that many of us face. By now I am sure you have heard the good news that Ministers have agreed to extend the Defence Exemption to the UK Border Regulations to cover Welfare and Resilience needs and have agreed to include dependants as well as Crown Servants. This is a significant privilege that we have only been able to secure on the understanding that it does not become a ‘free for all’, and that we mange approvals carefully. Mrs Fairclough will be writing out shortly to explain how to apply; there will be a slightly different process depending on whether you work for NATO or for EJSU, as we come under different chains of command.
This new exemption should go a long way to easing the worst of the pressure on our people. The spate of AF Rem Directed Letters on CEA and other allowances should help too: where COVID related regulations impose additional costs on you, you will not have to bear all of these yourself. Be reassured, our voice is being heard at the highest levels of government – extending the exemption to dependants needed a change in the law that required very high-level approval indeed. There is a flip side to this attention. Try not to stretch the relaxations too far. Remember, the Treasury is always looking over MOD’s shoulders and MOD has gone out on a limb for us, so please do give them your support. Complaints on social media really don’t help and draw our political masters’ attention to what is a very generous allowance, in a way that can be quite unhelpful.
In other Parish Notices, you will have seen that you are welcome to be immunised in the SHAPE influenza programme. Unfortunately, this has been delayed by the by logistic challenges which are pervasive in the Northern Hemisphere. That same shortage is also affecting the UK national programme, and consequently the Defence vaccination programme too. On strict instructions from the Centre, the UK programme will run in accordance with the NHS order of vaccination priorities. We have already been able to vaccinate the most vulnerable amongst us but UK vaccines for lower priority groups, such as the 50 to 64 age group, will be delivered to us later, if they are available at all. So, I encourage you to take advantage of whichever comes first, be that a UK national shot or a SHAPE one.
If you do want the SHAPE vaccine, if and when it comes available, you will have to be registered with the US Healthcare system. This week’s bus incident revealed that 25% of the families affected had not done so. This may well be an artefact of the ‘virtual joining procedure’ that many families had to endure but, because our own medical team rely on the US system for x-rays, taking bloods, COVID tests and so on, it would be worth you doing this as soon as possible. Likewise, if you are one of the few families who have yet to register for HEALIX, you really ought to get a wiggle on. Waiting until after you catch COVID will be both time consuming and costly – personally costly in the case of HEALIX registration. This will be even more true after the BREXIT transition period ends.
There is plenty of information on EU Transition, as we now have to call it, on EJSU Net. Let me offer a helpful reminder to get your ducks in a row: check your passport validity, make sure you have an international driving permit, review your pet passports, and make sure that your Bank has your BFPO address rather than your Belgian one. And so on, and so on. There is a lot to do but EJSU Net will point the way.
The school bus incident was a reminder that we will need to keep looking after each other for some time yet. I am pleased to report that our community seems as strong as ever. Well done to the Community Hub for organising the Halloween hunt and best dressed house competition. Well done to our winners, Maj Lee Lawrence and WO1 Damien Haymes – and great video excellent editing skills by the Mellors. Thank you, too, to Deborah Fallaha for judging; I hope you will be able to meet our teenagers in person soon. This month’s shout out, however, goes to Mrs Nicola Clark and CPO Andi Gay for the money they raised making Remembrance face masks – smashing their target and bringing in €1,351.
Our community spirit has been so impressive during the pandemic that I would like to hold a Community Volunteer award event before Christmas. The community Hub ladies are working on the time and date, but this will almost inevitably have to be a virtual event. We are looking for nominations from across the community to recognise people who have made a special contribution to the British community at SHAPE, showing selflessness and commitment. Please lean in and nominate individuals or groups who meet that criterion, be they military personnel, Civil Servants, dependants or groups, regardless of their place of work on the Mons campus or surrounding locality. The community hub can send you the forms, please return them by 4 Dec.
Finally, I wanted to express, again, my own sincere thanks for the way in which you have responded over these last six months. It has been a long hard slog, but we are far from out of the woods and I need to ask you to keep your eyes on the prize. The World Health Organisation reckons that in Europe we have another tough 6 months ahead of us. The take-away is that we are still in a serious situation and must be meticulous about following the rules. There are 3 sets: first, if we enter the base, we need to obey COS orders; second, we need to follow Belgian law; third, if we return to the UK, we need to follow the UK rules. Rules and ever more of them. I am sure that sometimes it can seem that there is nothing but rules. But if we are to get over the pandemic, and keep our alliance safe, all of us need to be even more careful than before.
Capt Charles Ashcroft RN
Dep UKNMR & UK SNR SHAPE
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