RHC-Pacific professionals share inspirations

| October 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Col. Laura Trinkle, Regional Health Command-Pacific Chief of Staff, is shown hiking Old Rag, located in the Shenandoah National Forest. Trinkle said finding success is not just about the job done at work. It is also important for people to find a work-like balance and pursue and set goals outside of the military mission. Loving the outdoors, Trinkle is an avid hiker and finds joy in a myriad of outdoor activities. (Courtesy photo)

Amy Parr
Regional Health Command–Pacific

(Editor’s Note: Stories that inspire is the first in a series of interviews that speak to the resiliency of the Army family. These stories touch Regional Health Command-Pacific professionals and serve as inspiration as they carry out the medical mission.)

HONOLULU — Resiliency is having the ability to recover from and surpass obstacles blocking the way. One key to mastering resiliency can be found in three words commonly heard in the military: “Expect the unexpected.” For some people, obstacles are encountered by chance. Yet others intentionally look for paths with obstacles, just so they can be conquered.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Col. Laura Trinkle, Regional Health Command-Pacific chief of staff, started the road to her military career with a determination to be successful.

Beginnings

She recalls first vocalizing her plans to join the military after her sister, two years her senior, graduated from high school.

“My grandparents were visiting us. They were all sitting around the living room and I was lying on the floor. Everyone thought I was asleep, but I wasn’t. I was listening,” she said. “My grandmother made a comment about how women shouldn’t be in the Army. I picked up my head and I said, ‘I’m going to be in the Army someday,’ and I laid my head back down and that was all I said.

“And so my dad [jokingly] says two things. One, I joined the Army out of spite for my grandmother, and don’t get me wrong, I love my grandmother,” she said smiling. “And number two was that I wanted to live in one of those big houses on Fort Riley where I grew up.”

With a tenacious spirit, Trinkle was intent on proving that women could and should be in the military. While she hoped to help pave the way for more women to join, making the Army a career was not in her long-term plan when she initially joined. “For me, I was also trying to figure out how to pay for college,” she said.

Coming out of high school with a three-year ROTC scholarship, Trinkle looked for three things in prospective schools – an ROTC program, being able to run cross country and track and not being too far from home.

Attending Emporia State University in Kansas, she graduated with a physical education degree with a coaching emphasis. “I was all ready to be a teacher after my student teaching and military payback and then the Army said, ‘Oh, we have other plans for you,’” she said.

CSM father

Although she calls Kansas home, Trinkle is a self-proclaimed “Army brat.” Her father retired as a military police command sergeant major, giving her insight into the military lifestyle.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Trinkle joined a military police reserve unit while in college and hoped to commission as an MP after graduation to fulfill her military obligation. “I chose MP because it’s what I knew and was familiar with because I had been an MP,” she said.

But instead, Trinkle commissioned with her second choice, Medical Service Corps. “Somebody knew better than I did and it was probably the best thing that has happened to me. I’ve had more opportunities, I think, as a Medical Service Corps officer, than I probably would have otherwise.”

Iraq

One opportunity Trinkle is especially proud of is her deployment to Iraq in 2008-2009 with the 10th Combat Support Hospital to Baghdad. “During that deployment I helped close down Ibn Sina Hospital, which was the hospital U.S. forces had been using since they invaded Baghdad,” she said. “It was a fixed facility and I helped turn over that hospital to the government of Iraq.”

Trinkle said her unit worked with the State Department, Iraqi Ministry of Health and other units to return a fully functioning hospital to the Iraqi government; allowing them a greater capacity to take care of their people. She said working the turnover, while building a new hospital at Victory Base and shifting operations of the 10th CSH from the green zone to Victory Base has probably been her career highlight.

But it’s not the location that makes the assignment, it’s the people, she said. “I tell folks all the time that your best assignment is more about the people you work with than it is the location of where you are or even the type of unit you are in,” Trinkle said. “It’s the people you work with that make a good assignment.”

When people come together to accomplish a mission, while hitting their own career highlights, that is a win for the entire team. “My greatest professional accomplishment is seeing people who have worked for me be successful,” she said adding that witnessing, mentoring and encouraging others’ success is the best part of her job.

As a leader, Trinkle said she loves watching people set and surpass goals. What she doesn’t like is delivering bad news as it’s never an enjoyable thing. Instead, she chooses to try and look at things from a positive and coaches others to do the same. “You have to find what you’re passionate about, determine what success means for you and seek out opportunities in the areas you’re passionate about,” she said.

Army passion
For Trinkle, she’s passionate about the Army and where her career has taken her thus far. “I’m happy to be here. I don’t think I would change a thing about my career,” she said. “I don’t have any regrets from any of my assignments and I think that’s what your goal should be.

“Everybody should have a goal that when they retire, they don’t have any regrets about their career choices and they have to keep looking forward. Once you make a decision, you make a decision and you move on. Yes, you may end up learning something from it the hard way, but you can’t look back and focus on it. You just have to keep going forward.”

Trinkle said finding success is different for every person. “When you grow up in the Army, you kind of have a different perspective. It’s what I knew,” she said. “I enjoyed military life and I always said I would stay as long as I was still having fun.”

Work-life balance

Finding success is not just about the job done at work. It is also important for people to find a work-life balance and pursue and set goals outside of the military mission. For Trinkle, that passion is about being outside. “I am an outdoors person, so running has long been a hobby,” she said. Looking to set new challenges for herself, Trinkle said she hasn’t completed a triathlon in a few years and has her eye on getting back on track. She also finds joy in a myriad of other activities. “If it’s an outdoor thing, I like doing it,” she said. “I like hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, you name it. Except jumping out of airplanes,” saying she prefers scuba diving.

Trinkle said it’s also great that the military family she grew up with is so supportive of her Army career and moves and “I’m very blessed to have a family that likes to travel. My parents, my sister, my nieces, they’ve come visit me at every place I’ve ever been.”

No stranger to the Pacific region, Trinkle was previously assigned to both Tripler and Madigan Army Medical Centers, and the former Western Regional Medical Command. While her former assignments help with general familiarization and some of the history, Trinkle said she recognizes the organizational changes that have occurred. “I can see the direction they’ve taken and it helps for a better, overall understanding of our mission and the people we take care of,” she said.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the people and the mission, she said. Excited to once again be back in the region, Trinkle said she will continue to lean in as a leader, coach and mentor those around her and find new obstacles to cross, all while expecting the unexpected, ready for any challenges ahead.

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