CHIEVRES, WHT, BELGIUM
Story by the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public Affairs Office
CHIÈVRES, Belgium – U.S. Army Garrison Benelux officially opened a new barbecue pit during a rain-pelted Sunday afternoon July 25, at the single service member quarters at Chièvres Air Base.
During the grand opening, attended by members of the garrison and Installation Management Command – Europe command groups, scores of single service members from the barracks cooked and ate hamburgers and hotdogs, drank cold drinks, cut and ate cake and enjoyed an event despite some rainy weather.
“This directly gets after quality of life,” said Col. James Yastrzemsky, commander of USAG Benelux, during the event to the attendees. “This is what it’s all about. People doing work behind the scenes to bring a beautiful project from idea, conception to where we are today, on behalf of you all, on behalf of Soldiers.”
Most everything at the barbecue area save the wooden awning and refurnished picnic tables are new, and personnel at the garrison’s Directorate of Public Works designed and oversaw the project.
Contractors removed a chimney in disrepair that was attached to the awning. An outside marble-top kitchen area was built up, which includes a hot plate, a barbecue, an outside fridge, a bar area, hot and cold water taps, a hose for cleaning. The awning itself was repainted. Electrical outlets are available so the residents can plug in and listen to music while enjoying the area.
On the other side of the barbecue area are two almost fully circular metal benches, in which the sitting space transitions almost as a Möbius strip from the outside to the inside of the partial circle. One bench is a designated smoking area and the other sits beneath a broad, wide-weave sun screen. At one point during the design and planning, DPW had considered wooden benches, but given the often wet weather in the Walloon region of Belgium, metal would dry faster and last longer.
Other considerations for the barbecue area included safety measures such as an on-hand fire extinguisher and lighting and security systems.
Contractors working with the DPW team also replaced the clinkers that once covered the ground and placed down new flagstones in their stead.
Frenz Slayton, manager for Army Family Housing and Unaccompanied Persons Housing, pushed for the new barbecue area and initially set forth a design for it.
“This was a great opportunity to show these single Soldiers that, yes, we do care about you, and that this was especially only for you,” said Slayton. “That’s what makes the whole thing extra special.
“We’re really proud of it,” she continued. “We really are.”
Slayton further credited one of DPW’s engineer, David Diricq, for his work with the contractors to make the project happen.
“We do our best to provide a nice place to allow a good time to the Soldiers and the community,” said Diricq.
The opening of the facility, initially planned to be a small event, turned into an event of larger significance and attendance as Tommy Mize, director of IMCOM-E, and IMCOM-E Command Sgt. Maj. Samara Pitre joined the festivities.
Pitre, herself a previous command sergeant major of USAG Benelux, provided a unique perspective to the event and to the newly opened facility.
“I spent quite a lot of time around these barracks, and one of the things we kept talking about was that we make things better,” she said. “I hope you guys take advantage of it as much as you can.”
The larger ceremony included aid from other garrison and tenant organizations. The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation provided open-air tents, which proved useful during the downpour. The on-post Commissary provided much of the food for the events, including the hotdogs, hamburger patties and buns for both.
Slayton echoed the point that, like the barbecue area itself, the generosity for the event was also aimed at the single service members.