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54th Annual Symposium 2014

From 9 to 11 October 2014 the SHAPE Officers’ Association held its traditional Annual Symposium and General Assembly.  As it is custom, the Symposium began with the Happy Hour. Since many participants were staying in new Dream Hotel in Mons, the Happy Hour took place there. The attendance was high. More than 60 people, members and some spouses, had chosen to spend some time together and to start the get-together with a friendly drink and some small tidbits. It was also the moment, when the SOA President elect, General (ret) John Shaud, US Air Force, was presented to the members by the Chairman of the Excom, Steve Covington. General Shaud, who was accompanied by his lovely wife Beverly, took the opportunity and pointed to the importance of the Association, whose only and most important goal is and has always been the support of the Alliance. He pointed out that the deep and profound changes in the Alliance during the recent years made the support by the Association even more important.
The next morning, the General Assembly was held, starting with the election of General Shaud as President of the Association. The vote was anonymous and General Shaud accepted to be President of the SHAPE Officers’ Association. In his acceptance speech he again pointed out the important changes the Alliance had undergone by adjusting to the new demands and challenges and outlined how the Association could show its support.
After this very important event, the general assembly moved to the award ceremony of the SHAPE Officers’ Association Scholarship Award.
Here is a recapitulation of the criteria to be fulfilled by the candidates in order to qualify for a SOA scholarship.
The candidate has to be:
    Descendant of SOA Members (children, grandchildren….)
    Any HS graduate recommended by a SOA Member
    Has to apply for a course of study related to NATO/SHAPE goals/values in areas such as Languages, History, Political Science, International Affairs, Engineering and Computer Technology, Economics
This year the Excom was able to award two 1000 € scholarships.

Was awarded to Asif Hussain Ali (United States) whose qualifications included the following:
    SHAPE HS Graduate
    Honor Roll
    US President’s Award for Educational Excellence
    National Honor Society Treasurer
    Study international economics and law
    At University of Maryland (at SHAPE)

Was awarded to Eva Zarco Lens (Spain) whose qualifications included:
    SHAPE HS Graduate
    Honor Roll
    Green & Gold Outstanding Student Award
    Athletic/Academic Achievement Award
    Attending Univ. of Maastricht in Economics
    Long-term goal to work in an international environment

Now the discussion was open on several important topics. The first topic was regarding the availability of the SOA Membership list. SOA members wished to have access to the full membership list so they could contact known associates or associates living in their vicinity. The Chairman noted that, due to privacy restrictions, only the name, email address and nationality could be provided.
After this a proposal was made to increase the annual dues to 25 Euros minimum, with discretion for members to contribute up to 50 Euros per year. A counter proposal was made to review the previous decision on life-membership and either reverse the decision completely, or defer the payment of annual dues to a later date.  The Chairman noted that the SOA was in a healthy financial situation and an increase in dues was unnecessary. Further, the decision to cease life membership and require annual dues had primarily been driven by the need to have an annual review of the membership status rather than raise additional funds. The Chairman proposed that the decision to request annual dues from current life members should be delayed until 2020. This issue could then be reviewed at the 2018 General Assembly. The proposal was carried by a majority vote.
There was much discussion on the need to recruit new members. A number of proposals were made to include: improving the out-processing to capture potential membership contacts as they leave SHAPE; making the membership free for the first year; encourage new members to see the value and join SOA by extending the activities. The Help for Heroes and Wounded Soldier campaigns were both mentioned as potential activities the SOA could support.
General Shaud noted that the need for the Alliance was stronger than ever and the SOA should strive to ‘spread the word’ amongst the SHAPE community and the nations. General Shaud would encourage more involvement in the NMR echelon and would provide a brief in 2015.
The financial report concluded the morning session of the general assembly. This was followed by the customary lunch in the SHAPE Club.
Traditionally the afternoon was taken by representations of special interest to members of the SOA who did not have the opportunity to observe the latest events in Mons and SHAPE/NATO closely.
Mons, the home of SHAPE for many years has been awarded the honour to be one of the Cultural Capital of Europe for the year 2015. A member of the Committee of MONS 2015 presented the programme of this special event. The number of cultural offerings and the variety were astonishing.
The second presentation was the ACO Update briefing, this year given by MGen Davis DCOS OPI. This guaranteed a special insight into the developments of ACO/NATO/SHAPE and allowed the members of the SOA to follow the important developments of the last 12 months.  
The evening of the second day of the General Assembly was filled by the traditional Friendship Concert in the Royal Theatre of Mons. As usual, the well-known SHAPE Band gave its best and the enthusiastic audience applauded every piece played with full vigor.
Saturday was taken up by the customary activities, the Cultural trip, which this year led us to Tournais, a typical Belgian town with a long history and attractive old houses. The highlight of this visit was the tour of the cathedral, a building that showed architectural styles from the early Romanesque to High Gothic. It was explained by our guide th