For families living in the European Joint Support Unit (EJSU) areas, local support is offered by Community Liaison Officer (CLO) roles. Army&You caught up with Felicity Barton, CLO for SHAPE – Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe – in Belgium, to find out how she supports families…

“My role involves passing on information from the military side to families. I keep everyone up-to-date with emails and via our private Facebook group,” explains Felicity.

“My area has more than 800 personnel and families but there are also CLOs in 13 other EJSU locations across Europe and Turkey.”

Felicity helps to bring families together through community events. “We normally have three big community events a year and I help organise them, as well as monthly outings, trips and activities – including quizzes and bingo.

By welcoming new arrivals and giving them information on what to expect, Felicity ensures families know what’s going on.

“I help show people around and add them into various Facebook groups if they want to be.

“I also go to coffee mornings and events to be a friendly face, trying to remove some of the scary aspects of going somewhere completely new for the first time.

“I can help with questions on childcare options, how to claim VAT refunds and just the general know-how of life at SHAPE.

“At the local community house, I’m a point of contact for spouses, the military and UK-based civilians.

“I also identify if there are any issues and find the people to help resolve them,” she says.

“Life here is very different to the UK. There’s no fast speed internet and things can take much longer.

“Childcare options aren’t the same as the UK and can be limited, so my role is very much helping to manage expectations,” she adds.

Felicity has also set up a volunteer committee and a ‘good ideas’ club, where people can share their suggestions for activities and events.

If you’re posted to SHAPE and would like to find out more, contact AFF’s Regional Lead EJSU, Anna Hall – ejsu@aff.org.uk

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