LTC Juul-Nyholm followed up on the implementation of various preventive measures and policies, including protective masks, thermal cameras, essential travel guidance, teleworking recommendations and tracing procedures, in addition to the regular COVID-19 staff updates.
For the leadership he showed during the COVID-19 pandemic, LTC Juul-Nyholm was awarded NATO's highest honour, the Meritorious Service Medal, by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
To find out more, we asked LTC Juul-Nyholm a few questions.
How did the NCI Agency respond to the pandemic?
This turned out to be a very long pandemic, which in many ways has changed our views on how we work. The Agency successfully transitioned to teleworking wherever it was possible, with all its advantages and disadvantages. However, we also had a number of people throughout the Agency who had to be on site to perform their jobs in support of the Agency and NATO Commands and units. The Agency is a complex organization spread out over many locations and in different countries under different Host Nations and Host Commands regulations.
When did you get involved in the Agency's response to the pandemic?
I took on the task of leading the coordination of the Agency's response to the COVID-19 situation in early 2020. I was going on holiday in late February and thought I would only be leading the effort until then, when someone else was supposed to take over and I could again focus on supporting Chief of Staff.
Now 20 months later, I am still heading the COVID-19 efforts on behalf of Chief of Staff.
The NCI Agency had never handled a situation exactly like COVID-19 and we very quickly had to establish structures, procedures and Agency-wide coordination to keep our staff healthy and to ensure business continuity of our critical services to the NATO command and force structure.
What was the biggest challenge during this time?
The Agency's COVID-19 Coordination Group developed policies and mitigation measures to be implemented throughout the Agency, taking into account Host Nation and Host Command regulations. This task was very challenging, as there were many different restrictions depending on where you were. Policies had to be broad enough to cover the entire Agency, and specific enough to have an effect. Then, then they had to be communicated. This was not always easy and not always a success, but we slowly got better at it. We had to keep staff safe and ensure essential business services continued.
How was this effort coordinated across the Agency?
There can be no doubt that this has been a team effort where the members of the Coordination Group have contributed significantly. It could not have been done without their help. I would like to recognize the early efforts from Health & Safety, Travel and Human Resources to help us see the seriousness of what was coming.
I owe a very big thanks to Miklos Kali-Kiss and LTC Mehdi Teyang in the Agency's Executive Management team for their incredible support and efforts throughout the crisis. They have put significant time and work into helping me and the Agency. Our Communications Team spent hours trying to transform the cryptic words of our policies and restrictions into clear guidance – not an easy task, thank you.
As the COVID-19 tasks grew, turning it into a full time job, my tasks in support of Chief of Staff were taken over by the Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff, Liese Ulenaers. Liese smoothly took over more and more of my tasks with no complaints. The job had to been done, so she did it.
What is your main message for staff today on this pandemic?
COVID-19 may no longer be a crisis but it is still here and we still need to manage it. While vaccines have proven to drastically reduce the likelihood of hospitalization, they do not entirely prevent infection or transmission of the virus to others. We can still transmit the virus to our colleagues, so take care.