Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, June 19, 2020 —
On June 12, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Kim Hendricks should have walked across the stage at Fort McNair, Washington, during a graduation ceremony for the National Defense University. Instead, she watched Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, deliver the commencement address via video – a now-familiar occurrence due to COVID-19.
But no pandemic can undermine her hard work, determination and success during her time at NDU’s National War College. In fact, her most recent achievement was one that few can tout – the honor of distinguished graduate.
Her path to distinguished graduate began before she started at the National War College.
Hendricks joined DIA in 2003 as an analyst, pursuing a career in the Intelligence Community for the rigor and significance of the work.
“I wanted to have an impact,” she explained. “I felt a strong calling to support my country and to support the military.”
This desire to defend the nation and protect the warfighter led Hendricks across the Agency – from the Directorate for Analysis to the Command Element to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
Her experiences in the analytical and financial fields provided her with a unique mission perspective and a deep understanding of how resources impact the IC.
“DIA prepared me incredibly well for the National War College because of the opportunities afforded to me at the Agency,” she said.
As one of the most prestigious educational opportunities for intelligence professionals, the National War College offers a comprehensive overview of the instruments of power and how they influenced the strategic operating environment throughout the course of history.
“It gave me a much broader perspective than just resources,” commented Hendricks. “Without the mission, you would not need the resources.”
During the 10-month program, Hendricks embraced the academic rigor of her courses.
“I committed myself,” she explained. “I wanted to get the most out of my experience, and if I was going to do this, I was going to do it the right way.”
And she did just that – and then some.
Earning the honor of distinguished graduate is an accomplishment only the top 10% of each National War College class can achieve for a “clearly superior performance” as determined by the faculty. Moreover, Hendricks did so with three kids under the age of 10, who were affected by the childcare facility closures that began mid-March.
In looking back on her career and to her future in the IC, Hendricks encourages DIA officers to chart their own path.
“You don’t have to do things the traditional way,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom.”