Coronavirus: NATO’S Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Adapts Amid Pandemic

Later this year, NATO’s ARRC will move to the highest readiness of any NATO headquarters since the Cold War.

Personnel at the Headquarters of NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) have placed a focus on biosecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Imjin Barracks in Gloucestershire has been adapted to ensure social distancing is maintained, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Handwashing, one-way systems and working environments with two-metre distancing in action are among the measures implemented on site, all vitally important so work can continue at the site.

"Our main effort has been force protection for our duty of care for 21 nations and the nearly thousand people on this site, so we have been trying to adopt best practice just as everyone else has," Major General John Mead, Chief of Staff of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, told Forces News.

"That’s meant working predominantly from home, conducting just mission-essential tasks in the headquarters, but fundamentally, it’s been a different way of working and I think with some positives as well, particularly as we’ve sought to exploit digital means."

Many ARRC personnel have been deployed into the community to assist in the nation’s fight against the coronavirus, demonstrating ARRC’s ability to adapt.

"We were fortunate to be able to deploy about a hundred at the peak from the headquarters around, into the NHS, into support the local resilience forums in the south west and also a sizable chunk up into London to support the headquarters up there," Maj Gen Mead said.

"That’s been useful to support the national effort, but frankly, you know secondly, just to keep our hand in in terms of readiness, in terms of what we do which is plan and run operations."

This year marks a transition for ARRC, stepping up to be the highest-readiness NATO HQ in 30 years.

"It really, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we’ve not had a Corps headquarters held at readiness by NATO, and we’re going to be the first through that, to be certified in November this year," Maj Gen Mead added.

Allied Rapid Reaction Corps personnel have adapted to keep normal business going, while at the same time, deploying to the community to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the highest-readiness NATO HQ since the Cold War, they will likely be called to respond to other crises as and when needed.