[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story is the first in the series "Benelux Family Legacy," which features multigenerational stories from U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and tenant unit partners. This series explores the people who comprise the garrison and delves into the legacy they have created in the Benelux.]
CHIÈVRES, Belgium – U.S. Army Garrison Benelux has evolved quite a bit over the decades, and the multi-generational workforce can tell that story.
“I started in May of ’81,” said Patrick Delmotte, the chief of communications and information technology for the garrison. “I remember when I started with punch cards – do you realize that? There was a keypuncher lady who was punching all the cards with a program.”
Patrick was 21 years old when he began his career at the garrison. His sister began working for the Army and Air Force Exchange Services before him starting in 1969. When Patrick joined, he was working in Hangar 3 for the Directorate of Logistics.
Though Patrick’s work takes him throughout the garrison, his office is in the headquarters building at Chièvres Air Base. Patrick’s son Charles works in the same building.
Charles Delmotte started his career at the garrison as a budget analyst in July 2020, a position his father, Patrick, also worked in during his career at the garrison.
They normally do not see much of each other during the workday.
“Well, sometimes he forgets his bread,” said Patrick. “So he sends me a text message saying can you bring me some bread?”
Aside from that, they have very different responsibilities. Patrick’s career has taken him through many different departments throughout the years. He worked his way up to a manager and then supervisor, later moving on to run a whole department.
Charles, on the other hand, is just beginning his career. The hardest part for him was figuring out how to establish himself in the same organization as his father.
At the beginning, Charles thought, “If I got the job, maybe it’s not because of me, but because of my father.”
“I had to prove much more than anyone else because they aren’t considering me as a person,” said Charles, “but considering me as the son of [Patrick].”
Working in the same organization as your parent might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the Delmottes they seem to have found their rhythm.
“It’s a strange feeling in the beginning,” said Patrick. “He’s not my son here.”
“Yeah, he’s a coworker,” said Charles.
While Charles is beginning his career, Patrick has years of experience and stories to tell about the garrison.
“I’ve been here for 41 years,” said Patrick. “When I arrived, I was the youngest one, one of the youngest ones. Now I’m the oldest one.”
As a 21-year-old living in Bauffe, Patrick used to ride his bike to work.
“When I started, I raced in the back of the air base,” said Patrick. “I rode my bike and there were no guards or nothing. From the back gate it was always open.”
In the years since, he has seen security measures change and evolve especially after 9/11. Patrick was working as a budget analyst at Caserne Daumerie at that time. In the days following the attacks, employees had to park their vehicles on the air base and walk over to Caserne Daumerie out of extra precaution.
Possibly the biggest evolution for Patrick involves technology.
“When I started, we had typewriters: not a computer, but typewriters,” he said. “Later on, we started to have a typewriter with some type of memory [built in].”
In the 90s came computers.
“There was one computer for 20 people.”
He explained how it was very basic with only email and a blue background with white text.
In 1996 the personal computer came to the garrison. This PC was of course shared by about ten other people. Slowly but surely everything evolved, and now many in the workforce cannot do their jobs without a computer.
“That’s one of the things that has evolved the most in the 40 years – going from a typewriter to a computer,” said Patrick.
The technological evolution he has seen goes hand in hand with his job working in IT. The nice thing for him is that, “You are always in the evolution. You are not behind, because I have no choice.”
For Charles, a newcomer relative to his father, the biggest change comes with the yearly budget.
“Every year is a budget change,” said Charles “They change everything.”
It is harder for him to see big change garrison-wide like his father.
“I see little change, but I cannot see big changes because I’m just here for two years,” he said.
Charles says his favorite part of the job is finding mistakes. They help him improve his skills by correcting, understanding, and improving his approach.
In the time the Delmottes have been at the garrison, the workforce itself has gone through major change.
“It’s quite unique,” said Patrick. “The good thing is you have lots of young people.” The birth of the younger generation brings in new ideas and news ways of doing things.
Charles on the other hand, enjoys the international aspect of the office.
“It’s interesting to have contact with people from other countries,” said Charles. “I’m not feeling like I’m in Belgium. I’m feeling more, between America and Belgium. It’s another part of the world here.”
The Delmottes have found a home at USAG Benelux.
“It just happened,” said Patrick.
When asked about the future of the garrison, Patrick jokes, “There have been Delmottes since ’69!”
If Charles works another 45 years, Patrick said, all his children can carry on the legacy.
This series, "Benelux Family Legacy," will continue to explore the many stories and experiences from the people who make up U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and its tenant organizations. Further stories like this on the legacy created through the garrison’s multigenerational workforce are scheduled to be published every Wednesday for the next few weeks.