From left, Lt. Col. Anthony Rhea, deputy commander of nursing or SHAPE Healthcare Facility; Col. James Yastrzemsky, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux commander; and Joshua Alo, postmaster at the Brussels Site, take part in Coffee with the Commander, the garrison's online
Notes from the USAG Benelux Town Hall, December 18, 2020
CHIEVRES, Belgium -- Col. James R. Yastrzemsky, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, hosted an online town hall Dec. 18, 2020 at Chièvres Air Base. He was joined by Lt. Col. Anthony Rhea, deputy commander for nursing at SHAPE Healthcare Facility, and Josh Alo, Brussels postmaster.
Below are the notes compiled from the town hall:
Yastrzemsky welcomed viewers to the live event and recognized Joshua Alo, Brussels postmaster as the Lunch Pail Awardee.
Alo is recognized for his positive energy and his team spirit. He is going above and beyond, not only with his postal duties but with additional duties at the Directorate of Human Resources. He is also very involved in the life of the community with his whole family. His wife is also recognized with a token of appreciation for her involvement in the community as a head nurse in a local Belgian hospital.
The USAG Benelux postal employees have a huge workload right now (25 percent increase of inbound mail). Customers are encouraged to pick up their packages as soon as possible to allow other packages to be stored.
If you wish to volunteer at any post office, call DSN 597-5584.
Holiday schedule for post offices as well as other services is available on the USAG Benelux website: https://home.army.mil/benelux/index.php/my-fort/news/upcoming-holidays-change-service-hours-post
Yastrzemsky discussed the current situation with COVID.
He started by reminding some basic measures:
• 3 Ws: Watch your distance, Wash your hands, Wear your mask!
• Belgium has no additional restriction yet: all the measures are on the website
• Germany and the Netherlands: recent additional restrictions due to increase in COVID numbers:
- Essential stores are closed including beauty salons, which mean beauty and barber are closed in Brunssum.
- Schools will be closed from Dec. 16 to Jan. 18. From Jan. 4 to 18 children will follow remote education.
- Belgium is not under these measures at this time.
• Within the USAG Benelux community, we have no active cases in the Netherlands.
• Additional control measure from Maj. Gen. Christopher Mohan to protect our community over the holiday period (from Jan. 4 to 17): minimize any unnecessary contact and travel. You can come on post to come to work but you’ll have to minimize contacts when off duty. Travel will be restricted within 30 kilometers of residence.
• Also from General Order: Curfew from Jan. 4 to 17 is from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Following the segment on COVID-19 and host nation and military rules and regulation, Kent Worford, Department of Defense Education Activity – Europe, West District superintendent, joined the group by telephone.
• In the last 4 to 6 weeks, the schools had very few COVID cases in our community.
• Teachers, administrators, and parents have maintained mitigation measures and kept the community safe.
• After the winter break, middle schoolers and high schoolers will have mid-term exams.
• After the break, it will be time for the transition from virtual learning to brick and mortar education for those who have chosen it.
• From March 15 to 26, there will be a visit for high school accreditation review. Parents, students and commands will be contacted to provide feedback on the schools. It will be done virtually due to the situation.
Rhea followed Worford to talk about both the flu season and the most recent news on the COVID-19 vaccination.
• Trends showing that children don’t get COVID at school but more in the family environment.
• All healthcare facilities are expecting to receive additional flu shots. After the New Year, the flu campaign should be able to resume. Right now the flu shots are limited to active duty, children and high-risk individuals. DODEA has extended the deadline to get the shot to February and priority is given to children from kindergarten to fifth grade.
• Holiday schedule for SHAPE Healthcare Facility: Open from Monday to Wednesday on a half-day schedule.
• COVID-19 testing facility (“the green giant”) is open from Monday to Thursday next week on a half-day schedule. The COVID-19 hotline will be available 24/7.
• COVID-19 vaccine: receiving the vaccine will be a huge logistical effort once approved to distribution but should happen during the break. Because of the Pfizer storage requirement, it will not be shipped to Europe but another vaccine is getting the approval currently. Priority will be given to healthcare workers and first responders.
• Everyone part of DoD is scheduled to get the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccination will be voluntary but strongly encouraged.
Question from the audience: Will the vaccine be available locally? Answer: If assigned to the Department of Defense, you are asked to get your vaccine through the clinic. If on a remote location, you can check with your provider how to get the vaccine.
Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation
Winterferst is ongoing at USAG Benelux and the MWR Facebook pages:
• Greetings Cards across the Benelux: if you still want one, reach out to FMWR on Facebook.
• Santa’s visit and reading letters: live at 5 p.m. Dec. 18.
• Contests are coming up, starting Dec. 22.
• Yastrzemsky is scheduled to do a holiday storytime Dec. 24.
Good news: the gyms in Brussels and Chievres will be open 24/7 as of Dec. 23. Brunssum should be coming up next.
Job opportunities are available with MWR at www.usajobs.gov.
A question on Child Development Center organization during holidays came from online. Leadership is still talking about CDC capacity. Those concerned are asked to reach out to the Brunssum coordinator to have a one-on-one conversation on individual situations.
Operation Christmas Cookies: If you wish to bring some holiday spirit to single Soldiers, you can bake some cookies and drop them at your Army Community Service office. The individually sealed package should include a list of ingredients and a note inviting the soldier to connect during this holiday season.
Hunting the good stuff
Yastrzemsky closed out by mentioning the garrison’s ceremonial role at an important commemoration.
USAG Benelux command group and color guard went to Bastogne last weekend to reflect on the 76th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. A monument for the nurses was unveiled this year during the observance.
The town hall ended with members of the SHAPE International Band playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public Affairs