Barry Mellor, communication officer at NATO JFC Brunssum
For some people, arriving in the Maastricht region is the first step of an expat career. They often fall in love with the natural environment soon while having trouble accommodating in a social structure that's so different from what they're used to. But there are people who've come a long way before coming to Limburg and having been to many places taught them the social skills necessary to settle.
Barry Mellor, community relations and internal communications advisor at NATO's Joint Forces Command Brunssum, is certainly one of them. You could say it's easy for somebody in this position, but the truth is, that Barry went through several different steps in his career to finally draw upon both his extensive military expertise and well-honed management skills as the head of a small team to promote the values of NATO's member states.
He was appointed Military Assistant to the Commander (a German 4* General) JFC Brunssum, in August 2006, right after finishing his Senior Course at NATO’s Defence College in Rome - a six-month sabbatical that turned into a life-changing experience. There, on a course populated 50 percent by civilians, he developed a network of contacts that help him to this day because many occupy senior positions in NATO up to, and including, the level of Ambassador. Among others, he was in the same syndicate as the first Italian astronaut, Roberto Vittori. But Barry also cheerfully remembers having his cats flown to Rome at great expense although he states it was worth every penny as they enjoyed the sunny rooftops of the Italian capital so much.
So while coming from Rome put the Limburg landscape at an unfair disadvantage, it also turned out to be the kind of experience to remember also when building a new network in the area. “When my wife and I arrived at our house – one of a block of 16 the British military provides for its employees near Sittard – it soon became clear a strong community with a highly creative social programme existed,” he recalls. The only drawback was that this meant interaction with the local community was limited.
But it couldn't keep Barry from actively look for opportunities in getting to know the expat community in Maastricht, which is the first obvious step if someone like him, intends to stay here.
The monthly Meet&Greet events are a perfect opportunity, as well as Internations get-togethers, to provide an environment where experiences can be shared with others than colleagues or the family.
Four years ago, Barry went even one step further in adapting to his new environment and bought a house on the German side of the tri-border region, in Höngen. “The houses are a little cheaper there and since my wife is German, we can deal with bureaucracy better,” he reveals the motivations semi-funnily. He's very proud of the work they've done with his wife in renovating the house, especially in converting an old barn that, not so long ago, was home to three horses. “It's a lovely unique house with a beautiful inner courtyard and many unusual features. I consider myself settled,” he says.
Then again, living at the crossroads of countries and nations, with the genuine intention to get to know them, have a certain value in professional life, too. When officially retiring from the Royal Navy in 2009, after several successful military missions and chances to broaden intellectually, he stresses – was very fortunate to obtain a post as a NATO civilian at JFC Brunssum. Here he speaks at ceremonies and meets all kinds of stakeholders throughout the region to nurture transparency and forge friendly relationships.
“It's not always easy as NATO has 28 member nations and all of their voices must be heard,” he says. “Fortunately, peace and stability are shared values.” While NATO, for its part, supports these values by sending military and humanitarian missions to troubled parts of the world when needed, the Alliance works with the principle of consensus as the bedrock of all its actions. Reaching agreement can be a chaotic process, but Barry is sure the world needs organizations such as NATO and the United Nations. “If they didn’t exist I am certain something like them would soon be created,” he says.
But it doesn't mean they have to stay the same. “If you compare NATO before the end of the Cold War to today you will see a considerable change. It is necessary for organisations to maintain their relevance and the Alliance embraces that philosophy in order to counter emerging security threats,” Barry explains. NATO's two JFCs, Brunssum and Naples, share the command responsibility for the so-called NATO Response Force (NRF): a highly capable military force that can deploy literally anywhere in the world at a few days notice. It has a range of tasks from serious fighting at one end of the spectrum to the provision of humanitarian assistance at the other. Command rotates annually between the two bases and, from January next year, Brunssum will be the Standby NRF Command for 2014.
Barry says of all his professional adventures, he likes the work at NATO best, because it affords the opportunity to travel, and live and work in wonderful environments. “The privileged insight to all the different cultures of the various member states represented at Brunssum is extremely broadening and breeds understanding and tolerance,” he says.
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