A still from the Oct. 8 online Coffee with the Commander and 2020 Welcome Expo.

Notes from the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Coffee with the Commander / 2020 Welcome Expo, Oct. 8

CHIÈVRES, Belgium – Col. James R. Yastrzemsky, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, hosted an online town hall Oct. 8 at Chièvres Air Base, which also served as the garrison’s 2020 Welcome Expo.

He was joined in the garrison headquarter building’s “Resiliency Room” by Col. Kathy Spangler, commander of the SHAPE, Belgium, and Brussels health care facilities; Lt. Col. William Frost, USAG Benelux chief of staff; Clint Strutt, Army Community Service division chief, and Sandy Arvay, Army Community Service manager. Many other representatives of garrison and garrison-associated organizations joined the town hall by telephone.

Yastrzemsky welcomed viewers to the live event.

He began by discussing the closure of the Brussels American School closure and explained the decision process. The school was closed out of an abundance of caution when there were two different positive tests for COVID-19. The first positive case was reported at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 7, but the student had not attended school all week long, and there was no significant impact for the school. Nevertheless, the Family went to the health care facility unannounced, so nobody was there to anticipate their arrival.

The second report of a positive case was made at 8:30 p.m. The student had not been to school all week long because they were symptomatic on Sunday. The TRACE system begins 48 hours before the first symptoms, which was Friday in this case, and the student had attended school Friday. The student’s sibling, who was asymptomatic, attended school Monday through Wednesday.

Given the two positive cases, key decision makers met around 9 p.m. and decided by 9:30 p.m. the best course of action was to close the school, report these incidents through the chain of command and communicate to the parents.

During the coffee with the commander, Yastrzesmsky reminded everyone to know the guidelines for school attendance and health care visits in the event of symptoms possibly indicating COVID-19.

Spangler, reminded the audience of the town hall that if they experience symptoms, they must first call the hotline instead of showing up directly at any of the health care facilities.

Kent Worford, the superintendent for the Department of Defense Education Activity – Europe, West District, who joined the group telephonically, highlighted that the top priority of the school is to maintain a safe environment for its students, faculty and Family members. He emphasized that parents should keep their children at home if they do not feel well. As Monday is a holiday, and many parents are likely to plan travel, Worford reminded parents and guardians not to take their children to any deemed a “red zone” (https://diplomatie.belgium.be/en), as that would require them to quarantine for two weeks and miss two weeks of school.

After the segment on the Brussels American School, Yastrzemsky introduced Dwayne Key, who joined by telephone, as the Army Prepositioned Stock (APS) Site manager and Frost, in the Resiliency Room, as the garrison chief of staff.


The Welcome Expo portion of the event began when Stacy Perez, the director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, joined by phone. She highlighted several upcoming events, including:

- Oct. 16: Area beautification day throughout the garrison,

- Oct. 30: Trunk-or-Treat at Chièvres Air Base and Sterrebeek Annex, Belgium

- Oct. 31: Trail of Treats at Brunssum Site, the Netherlands,

- Nov. 20: Turkey Trot at Chièvres Air Base,

- Nov. 21: Turkey Trot at Brussels Site and Brunssum Site.

Yastrzemsky asked Perez what was the status of the coffee shop collocated with the community activity center at Chièvres Air Base. Perez said that they are in the process of hiring a manager.


Clint Strutt, who joined the Coffee with the Commander / Welcome Expo in person, discussed the core programs of Army Community Service:

- Readiness programs, which include employment, financial and relocation readiness,

- Advocacy programs, which include the Family Advocacy Program, the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention, and the New Parent Support Program,

- and Resilience programs, which include Army Family Team Building, the Army Family Action Plan and the Commander Resiliency Program.

In collaboration with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR), EFMP is giving exceptional family members trunk-or-treat access from 4:30 to 5 p.m.

Other events on the ACS calendar include the Take Back the Night run at SHAPE Oct. 15 and host nation orientation and cultural adaptation. ACS is also working on a spouse sponsorship program. ACS wants to help acclimate newcomers once they permanently change station to USAG Benelux.


Following Strutt’s segment on ACS, Spangler discussed the upcoming flu season, as she had received inquiries about the availability of flu vaccinations. The clinic will receive a small shipment at first, and priority will be given to health care providers and active-duty service members. After that, other personnel will be able to get a vaccination either through a drive-through system or in theater with preventive COVID-19 measure.

Also, the COVID-19 hotline is still available (+32(0)65 32 5336 during duty hours and +32(0)476 76 0327 after duty hours). Any community members experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms should call the hotline before visiting any health care facility. Brussels Health Care Facility is also available on an appointment basis.


Shawn Ticho, coordinator for Child and Youth and School Services, joined the expo by telephone and provided an update on the child care situation for Brussels and their organization’s upcoming events, support and important information.

The CYS at Brussels will be open Oct. 9, even if the school is closed.

All newcomers are required to register through https://militarychildcare.csd.disa.mil/mccf/ui/#/ to be on the waiting.

CYS will host a pumpkin patch pumpkin carving event Oct. 24 at SHAPE and Brunssum. Other fun events are scheduled for children throughout the month.

Registration for winter sports starts soon and includes:

- Running, cross-country and functional fitness at SHAPE,

- Running, cross-country, functional fitness and flag football at Brussels,

- and golf at Brunssum.


Capt. Brian Wilson, an attorney with the Northern Law Center, was also on the line.

Legal assistance is offered on appointment, and those interested should call DSN 423-4868 or +32(0)65-44-4868.

Notarial assistance is available Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Chièvres Air Base Post Exchange and Wednesdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Bldg. 318 at SHAPE.

Wilson ended his segment by reminding all community members that they are subject to host nation laws regarding COVID-19.


First Sgt. Joshua Dubois, provost sergeant for the Directorate of Emergency Services, spoke next.

DES provides law enforcement, COVID-19 screening at all garrison locations, physical security, fire prevention services, and Installation Access Control System services, which grants access to the garrison.

In case of emergency, the military police desk is open at the following numbers:

- Chièvres Air Base: DSN 597-5252 or +32(0)68-25-5252,

- Brunssum Site: DSN 597-4555 or +31(0)45-534-0555,

- Brussels Site: DSN 597-9760 or +32(0)2-280-9760,

- SHAPE: DSN 423-3333 or +32(0)65-44-3333

- APS-2 Dülmen, Germany: DSN 524-8946 or +49(0)611-143-524-8946

The emergency hotline for Europe is 112.

The SHAPE federal police, who speak French, staff the SHAPE MP desk and can provide translation assistance during an emergency involving host nation emergency personnel in Belgium.

The week is also Fire Prevention Week, and Dubois provided community notice of a grease fire and extinguisher demonstration at the Post Exchange Oct. 9.


Jocelynn Cobb represented the American Red Cross, the servicing office of which is located at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, joined by telephone as well.

The Red Cross conducts emergency communication messaging or notification for U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community members, including active-duty service members, Department of Defense civilians, DoD contractors, retired service members and dependents). Emergency messaging can be initiated by calling the Red Cross office at DSN 452-9440 or +49(0)65-65-61-9440, by calling the care center at +1-877-272-7337, or by using the Red Cross smartphone app.

The American Red Cross also offers resilience workshops and first aid / CPR classes.

To learn more about the local American Red Cross, visit www.facebook.com/BeneluxRedCross.


Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Simon Chang represented the Religious Support Office and the garrison’s three chapel communities (SHAPE/Chièvres, Brussels, Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum). Catholic and Protestant services are available at all communities both in person and streaming online.

Community members can contact their ministry teams for other programs. That contact information is available on the garrison website (https://home.army.mil/benelux/index.php/about/Garrison/religious-support) and on social media:

- SHAPE community chapel: www.facebook.com/SHAPECC,

- Brussels American Chapel: www.facebook.com/Brussels.American.Chapel,

- JFC Brunssum Chapel: www.facebook.com/JFCBrunssumChapel.


Veronica Fields joined the team by telephone to introduce community members to Army Continuing Education Services.

The program offers education programs and services to the community, including academic and career counseling, basic skill instructions, general technical improvement classes, Army and Air Force testing, guidance and Army tuition assistance and financial aid assistance.

They also offer college programs and services through different universities.

Registration is ongoing with classes running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15.

Also, the National Testing Center is located at SHAPE.

Education centers are available by appointment through email, phone or Facebook. To learn more, visit https://home.army.mil/benelux/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources/continuing-education-serviceswww.facebook.com/SHAPEEducationCenter, or www.facebook.com/USAGbeneluxbrunssumEdcenter.


A community member inquired about the volunteer Commissary shopping program phone line.

Sandra Arvay, who also answers that phone line and was in the Resiliency Room, informed the community about the program and that there were some technical difficulties with the phone line recently. She asked the community member reach out to her email address.


The next organization represented at the event was Veterinary Clinic. Paula Andrews, operations assistant, represented the clinic on the telephone.

The primary goal of the clinic is the care of military working dogs and food safety at the Post Exchange and Commissary. They also provide care to the pets of personnel with access to Chièvres Air Base. That care includes preventive care and vaccination, maintenance medication, minor diagnostic services, and basic surgery services such as dental cleaning.

The clinic is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed Thursdays for training, afternoons for the last business day of each month, and U.S. federal holidays.

Andrews recommended newcomers register their pets during in-processing and get a European Union pet passport for the animal through a local veterinarian. A chip will be registered with the Families new information, and the EU veterinarian can track the vaccination of the pet this way, which make traveling with the pet easier.


The human resources representative for non-appropriated funds employees said there are job opportunities at Chièvres Air Base, SHAPE, Brussels Site and Brunssum Site for child care services. Employment opportunities for U.S. Army Garrison Benelux can be found at www.usajobs.gov.


Jeff Carson represented Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS). The program is open to all service members in the USAG Benelux footprint are single or are geographic bachelors.

BOSS meetings are typically held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. the second and fourth Thursdays every month at the ACS conference room, Bldg. 318 at SHAPE.

Service members interested in joining BOSS should contact the SHAPE Outdoor Recreation Center (www.shape2day.com/community/sports-fitness/outdoor-recreation).


Lori Maggard, the general manager for the Post Exchange at locations throughout USAG Benelux and beyond, reminded community members that the busiest two days for pizza are typically Halloween and the day before Thanksgiving, and it would be a good idea to pre-order pizzas for those days.


John Phelan, the deputy garrison site manager for the Brussels community talked with the group about conducting an after-action review of the decision and notification process for the school closure. He also gave a personal anecdote about meeting Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez.


During the event, Yastrzemsky personally thanked and congratulated Brett Harwood for his behind-the-scenes work organizing the online Welcome Expo and the recent 9/11 We Remember event. He also thanked Sandra Arvay for her work behind the scenes with Army Community Services.

U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public Affairs