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Armed Services Liaison Newsletter October 2017

Thames Valley Intergroup (TVI)
I have been in the role of Armed Services Liaison Officer (ASLO) for TVI since June 2016, having put myself forward for the position due to my long and rewarding career in the army.

I served in HM Forces from 30 June 1987 until 31 March 2012 and achieved the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2). Although as time progresses my serving contacts in the army are dwindling I still think and act like a soldier, so I am able to communicate, when required, with officers, WOs, senior and junior ranks in an effective manner to share my experience, strength, and hope.

As the ASLO post had been vacant for some time when I started I decided that the best strategy would be to approach Unit Welfare Officers (UWOs) and Garrison HQs directly.

I live near Aldershot Garrison, which is actually in Mid Surrey Intergroup’s area, but as their ASLO position was and still is I think vacant I approached the Intergroup secretary and asked if they had any objections to me covering that particular area. They were happy to let me do so.

I initially approached SSAFA in Aldershot and was invited to attend the September quarterly UWO meeting where all UWOs in that region attend. Unfortunately, a week before the meeting I was uninvited. The reason given was ‘soldiers are sick of hearing about alcohol’. Shortly after that, a soldier knocked down and killed two aspiring athletes, in Aldershot, whilst over the drink drive limit.

As most of Aldershot Garrison’s UWOs are based in one location within the HIVE (an information exchange service run by the Army Welfare Service (AWS)) I decided to approach the AWS directly and have received a much warmer response.

I have visited the HIVE and explained the primary purpose of AA, distributed AA information literature and spoken to various UWOs, who have all been very receptive and now have my number should they require it. The Aldershot HIVE now has AA literature and posters displayed in the foyer of the Connaught Centre. I have also offered, if desired, to run informal ‘surgeries’.

On the back of this I have also been received expressions of interest in AA from the HIVE in Abingdon and Bicester. As they are both out of the TVI area I have passed this on to the relevant PI officers.

I am now also in regular communication with the UWO of the Grenadier Guards, based in Windsor, who are interested in being proactive with AA. The new ASLO at Thames and Chiltern Intergroup is also involved in this.

In June I received, via York, an invitation for AA to set up a stand at a health fair at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS). The event was taking place in July; however, it clashed with a pre-booked holiday, and due to the officer running the event being on exercise for a long period prior to the fair it proved impossible to arrange anything, so reluctantly I had to pull out, but the officer will be running the same event next year. I hope that we can get something in place in order for AA to attend. I also took the time to explain AA to him and will be using him as conduit to approach RMAS in the future.
In the past week I have received the first ‘off the street’ referral for a veteran in Bracknell who is need. He suffers PTSD after being shot in Afghanistan. As well as the support that I and his sponsor can give him I will be engaging with Combat Stress to attempt to facilitate some urgently required specialist mental health support.

I will continue with my endeavours. I am lucky enough to be in full-time employment, so ASLO duties do sometimes slip due to work pressures; however, I have found the past 12 months very rewarding.

Matt, ASLO, Thames Valley Intergroup, armedforcesliaison@aathamesvalley.org.uk

Birmingham Intergroup
Elaine, ASLO for Birmingham Intergroup, has organised AA participation at a training event at SSAFA in Birmingham.

Wiltshire Intergroup
Wiltshire contains a high number of military (mainly Army) units around Salisbury Plain, including the major garrisons of Tidworth, Bulford, Larkhill, and Warminster. I receive requests from military units to participate in their health fairs, where information is made available to the military, their families, and MOD civil servants to help them to make appropriate lifestyle choices. These health fairs are coordinated for the Army by the Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC), and usually involve some combination of primary health care, dental care, mental health, substance abuse, hearing protection, and healthy eating. Also often present are the British Legion, HIVE, insurance and financial advisors, complementary medicine purveyors, and other agencies involved with drug and alcohol abuse. Thus AA is included as part of a larger picture concerning the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. I follow the ‘attraction rather than promotion’ directive, rather than trying to ram sobriety and recovery down the throats of those who may as yet be unconvinced that they—or their friends, relatives, or workmates—need this intervention. My approach is to raise awareness with the military that the Fellowship is available to them, is confidential, and is free. In discussion with certain individuals (such as commanding officers, regimental sergeant majors, medical officers or padres), I use my own story to illustrate how AA works, how an alcoholic may present in the military, and how, as employers, they can use this resource to the mutual benefit of their organisation and their affected personnel. A picture of my stand is attached—this photograph was taken at a health fair in Keogh Barracks near Aldershot, arranged by mutual agreement with Northdown Intergroup—for my son’s current unit, 22 Field Hospital. I often receive requests from outside Wiltshire—probably because my contact details have been passed around by the RAPTC organisers—and I pass these on to the Intergroup or Region concerned. As a result of these requests, I sometimes deliver a stand outside Wiltshire by mutual agreement with the Region concerned if there is no-one available locally to cover on the day in question.

I was recently asked to identify a senior retired military officer as a potential non-alcoholic trustee; I submitted two names to GSO (with the permission of both gentlemen concerned); it is now a matter for the General Service Board, and the two individuals, to move this on to an agreed conclusion!
Ken M, ASLO, Wiltshire Intergroup, aservices.wiltshire@aamail.org