[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story continues our series Benelux Family Legacy, which features multigenerational stories from the 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 AIR BASE, Belgium – Laurette Mauro and Philippe Duquenne like to recall their love story, which began 36 years ago in the garrison workplace.
Back then the introduction of computers to the workplace brought an additional task of transporting data storage tapes to the information technologists at the end of each day’s work. Philippe transported those data tapes from downtown Mons, Belgium to Caserne Daumerie in Chièvres, Belgium by vehicle each day. Laurette sent her department’s tapes off with Philippe and also received blank ones to resume data recording. Additionally they began to see each other more regularly because Philippe dropped off the mail.
Laurette, at the time, worked for the 80th Area Support Group (NATO/SHAPE Support Group), which would later transform into U.S. Army Garrison Benelux. Philippe drove for Department of Logistics starting in 1983. The beginning of their love story subsequently paralleled their long career with the Army in the Chièvres / SHAPE community.
“Only civilian drivers were driving – not military back then,” Philippe said.
He transported dignitaries, commanders, and other very important people on missions throughout his career. Philippe fondly remembers his transport of several commanders, generals, and admirals. His missions even included the transport of U.S. Secretary of Defense and U.S. Secretary of the State at the time.
“A lot of people knew me, and I liked my work,” he said.
He added that he received a number of coins for his good service.
Currently, Philippe runs the shuttle bus from Chièvres Air Base to SHAPE multiple times a day to transport employees and military personnel back and forth.
Laurette began her garrison work in 1985 part time in Training & Incentive Awards and Suggestions Branch of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center located in the city center of Mons. The next year, she was promoted to permanent staff as technical services personnel assistant where she met Philippe. In 1988, they were married.
At the time, Philippe and Laurette didn’t realize they were beginning a legacy with the garrison when their daughter Leslie Duquenne was born.
“I was one of the CPAC babies,” Leslie said.
She recalled how she attended the organization day when she was young and her parents’ colleagues got to know her while she grew over the years.
In 2015, Leslie joined the garrison staff as a human resource assistant for CPAC at Chièvres Air Base.
“It’s weird to work with people who saw me as a baby,” she said. “People sometimes know me because I’m Laurette and Philippe’s daughter.”
Leslie had never intended to work for the U.S. Army, with her sights instead on a dream job in Brussels, but the garrison atmosphere drew her in. She recounts how much she enjoys meeting people and learning about new cultures.
“I don’t think I would like to work somewhere else now; I would like to do my whole career here,” she said. “It’s always positive in my office because we are hiring people and they are always happy to have a job. I am happy to see that I am helpful – even if it’s not my big plans for my life.”
Laurette agreed with Leslie’s sentiment about the work environment, adding that she also “really loves being with the American people … and speaking English.”
Moving from a time when computers and internet were not widely used, Laurette also changed duties when she accepted a position as administrative assistant for the Directorate of Resource Management in 2002 at Daumerie Caserne. In 2011, she was promoted to management analyst in the DRM Manpower Branch, a position she currently works, though her division is now called Manpower and Agreements and is part of the Resource Management Office. Her office is also at Chièvres Air Base now.
Laurette recalled her first use of a microwave, which was a new addition to the breakroom. As a joke, her colleague instructed her to microwave her croissant for five minutes.
“The office started to smell and white (smoke) was coming out of the microwave and suddenly inside all the office so that we had to open all the windows to evacuate all the fumes,” said Laurette. “I was really embarrassed!”
Attending and organizing Christmas parties and retirement ceremonies have made for fond memories for both Laurette and Philippe. They described USAG Benelux as a big family.
“Those events were so special, and I will always remember them,” Laurette said.
Having her daughter join the Army environment grew the family aspect of work even more.
“I'm very proud of my daughter and happy that she loves her job as much as I love mine,” Laurette said. “(I) hope she will have a long and brilliant career with USAG Benelux.”
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 will continue to be published every Wednesday for a few more weeks.