The people of Gloucestershire have formally welcomed HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) at a glittering service in Gloucester Cathedral.
The cathedral service on Thursday 16 September 2010 marked the formal ‘Welcome to the ARRC’ by Gloucestershire County, as represented by Gloucestershire County Council, Gloucester Cathedral and the Gloucestershire Media Group.
The headquarters of the ARRC Group, which draws staff from 15 member nations, was recently relocated to Imjin Barracks, Innsworth, after many years in Germany.
Over 400 serving personnel and dependants of the ARRC Group, accompanied by Lieutenant General Sir Richard Shirreff, Commander ARRC, were hosted by Gloucestershire dignitaries at a service of welcome at the cathedral.
The service was led by the Dean of Gloucester, The Very Reverend Nicholas Bury, and commenced with a formal procession of flagbearers into the cathedral, bearing the flags of all 15 member nations of the ARRC, from across much of Europe as well as Canada and the USA.
Then, setting the scene for the evening, the Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire addressed the visitors to emphasise the importance of the ARRC Group to the county.
Addressing the packed congregation, Sir Henry Elwes said:
We are honoured to welcome the ARRC Group and their families to Gloucestershire. This is an important day for us - you will add hugely to the fabric of our society.
I can say truthfully that you could not have picked a better city in which to site your new HQ.
However, we are acutely conscious that your work is not all fun - we understand that you play a key role in striving for peace in the world. I can guarantee that we in Gloucester will be right behind you in this cause. We won’t forget your families while you are away in Afghanistan.
On behalf of the whole city, we welcome you to Gloucester and we support you in the difficult tasks that you face. We are proud to have you here.
The service was also an opportunity for Lieutenant General Shirreff to outline the work of the ARRC and to place on record his command’s enormous gratitude for the unstinting support and loyalty shown by the county since he and his colleagues, and their families, arrived in the area earlier this year.
Lieutenant General Shirreff said:
I thank you most profoundly for your kind words and for the honour of being welcomed formally to Gloucester and Gloucestershire.
Our presence here tonight is a symbol not only of your hospitality and willingness to accept us, but also of our determination to contribute as much possible to the community that we have been welcomed into so warmly.
The bulk of the headquarters staff will be in Afghanistan next year - a year is a long time and we need your support. We can never be certain what the future holds, but it is a fair assumption that we will be based in Gloucestershire for a long time to come.
So tonight symbolises the beginning of a strong and lasting relationship between the ARRC and the people of Gloucestershire.
Numerous serving and family members of the ARRC, drawn from the UK and several of the partner nations, also contributed to the service; these included the Reverend Paul Wright, Chaplain to HQ ARRC, Mrs Diane Read and Master Philip M Anderson, both from the USA, Lieutenant Colonel Pier Verdecchia from Italy, Miss Anja Fussholler from Germany, and Lance Corporal Sarah Komen from the UK.
Summing up the significance of the ARRC’s arrival in Gloucestershire, the Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, Councillor Mark Hawthorne, stressed just what the ARRC’s presence in the county means to the local community.
This is an important event to welcome families from 15 nations to Gloucestershire. We are privileged to have ARRC, the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, locating to the county.
After months of working hard to ensure things run smoothly, it’s great to finally meet the families. We wanted to give them a great Gloucestershire welcome and I hope that they settle quickly and smoothly into county life.