News Stories

Academic director’s humor uplifting for students, staff

By Army Sgt. Scott J. Evans | Defense Information School | December 22, 2016

FORT MEADE, Md. --

Trish Huizinga, a retired Navy senior chief petty officer, and Will Smith, a retired Air Force master sergeant, have worked together at the Defense Information School since 2010.

Huizinga and Smith are the academic directors for the broadcast operations and maintenance department. Until recently, they worked side-by-side in cluttered, nearly ceiling high cubicles that provided a window into their often-heavy workloads and responsibilities. In this setting, they maintained a positive, professional relationship and had fun with one another.

“We joked,” Smith said. “We talked over the wall. When it’s time to work and it’s time to be professional, though, she’s got that line. She knows how to shut that door and open up another one.”

Huizinga, who was recognized as the DINFOS Civilian of the Quarter for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016, has found a sense of humor to be beneficial for her career and the people who have worked with her.

“I find that if you are able to laugh, you can make people more comfortable and that more can get accomplished,” said the blue-eyed, red-haired Huizinga. “If you are stiff and formal all the time, people don’t know how to approach you.”

During her early childhood, she lived in Germany because her father was stationed there in the Army. Huizinga said she has few memories of that time.

“I don’t believe that I fully understood that my dad was in the Army,” Huizinga said. “I do, however, remember him coming home from the field with live lizards.”

And she remembers her father being funny.

“My dad had a twisted funny bone,” she said.

Being around it all the time made it second nature, Huizinga said.

Huizinga attended three different elementary schools while she and her family lived in Baltimore County. When the family moved farther north to a home on 10 acres, she was able to stay in one school from seventh to 12th grade. After graduation from college, she was working in a retail job but wasn’t satisfied with her prospects, Huizinga said.

One night, Huizinga and a friend were brainstorming about their futures. They both loved the ocean, so they thought about joining the Coast Guard.

“Long story short, I ended up seeing a Navy recruiter in Baltimore who nearly fell out of his chair because I had no felony convictions,” Huizinga said. “I guess he had a bad month.”

Her friend never joined any of the military services.

Huizinga enlisted in the Navy in 1982 and retired in 2004. She credits her 22 years with the fleet, and her family, as being vital to who she is today, personally and professionally.

“I was able to balance my career and family by having a supportive husband who stayed home to take care of our daughters,” Huizinga said. “I didn’t have to worry if I needed to stay late to work on my surface warfare pin, or when I deployed, or later when I went to grad school or any number of reasons that my hours were impacted.”

She also grew to appreciate the many places that she got to travel to during her service.

“Every time the military moved us was an opportunity to learn and grow,” Huizinga said. “My daughters have been to so many countries and absorbed the culture of each location – far more than their nonmilitary peers.”

She worked at DINFOS in uniform as an instructor from 1998 to 2001. After retiring following her next tour of duty, she taught until February 2008 as a contractor for an online course offered at the school. She became the academic director for operations in the broadcast operations and maintenance department later that year.

Smith appreciates the combination of Huizinga’s cheerful personality and professionalism, which are constantly evident to students and her colleagues, he said.

“She is basically the therapist of all the operators, talking to them about whatever is going on,” Smith said. “She does that quite a bit.”

Huizinga has long used humor in her daily interactions with people and student training.

Humor helps, she said.

“If I can laugh, it helps me get through the rough spots.”