[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 – Thibaut Lefebvre, an information technologist at Chièvres Air Base, began in his position at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux just weeks ago.
Joining his mother Catherine Janssen, a part-time secretary and part-time utility assistant for the Directorate of Public Works (DPW), he is the third generation in his family to work for the garrison.
Monique Janssen, Catherine’s mother and Thibaut’s grandmother, was chief of the travel section at SHAPE. She began working at SHAPE in the 1970s and remained for more than 20 years before stepping down due to health issues. Monique suffered from arthritis from a young age, but Catherine remembered that she always had a smile on her face despite the pain. Monique passed away in 2012, leaving the legacy to her daughter and now her grandson.
Catherine, originally born in Germany, traveled to Belgium with her family when her father, Christian Janssen, joined the Belgian army. They moved to SHAPE when she was only seven years old. Catherine recalls how her mother signed her up for the American Girl Scouts for several years so that she could improve her English-speaking skills. When she was young, she also volunteered in her mother’s office and learned the ins and outs of the workplace.
“I always liked the language,” said Catherine.
She recalled how she attended SHAPE Elementary School and was the only Belgian in her class for two years.
Catherine started work with DPW in 1987, overlapping her mother’s tenure by six years.
“I like my job, and I like my colleagues,” said Catherine.
She lives alone, and her colleagues sometimes help her when she needs to repair things. Over the years they have become more than just coworkers, holding barbecues together and doing other activities outside of the workplace.
Now with her son working for the garrison, she can see him every day.
Thibaut originally worked for USAG Benelux a decade ago as part of the summer hire program as a housekeeper at the Army lodge.
More recently, however, Thibaut was self-employed with his own technology store, which sold parts needed to repair computers and a variety of electronic devices. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, his doors had to close and the frequent openings and closings due to preventive measures made business difficult.
“I’m happy to be in this environment,” Thibaut said about joining the garrison. “I just liked to change my life.”
He also expressed how he was glad to practice English again. Catherine reassured him that her English was not as proficient 30 years ago as it is now. On-the-job practice for Catherine has made her much more fluent over the years.
Now, in his role with IT, Thibaut is excited about the future.
“I just hope to be happy there and for a long time, of course,” said Thibaut, “(and also) to find a good work-life balance.”
This series, Benelux Family Legacy, explores 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 for two more Wednesdays.