She started with a definite plan. After graduating Hutchison, she intended to go to Harvard, major in government studies, intern on Capitol Hill, and then head to law school. But while at Harvard, majoring in government, something unusual happened.
“In my sophomore year, I volunteered and became the assistant manager for the men’s ice hockey team at Harvard. This was despite never having been involved in athletics at Hutchison.” The hockey team ended that season as the NCAA Division I Champions, and Huygen continued the job into her junior and senior years. “Even though I took the LSAT my senior year, I was on the fence about law school right away,” she said.
When she graduated, she worked for a year at USA Hockey, one season for the Memphis Chicks, and then for the Baltimore Orioles as an assistant in their scouting and player development office.
There was a bit of serendipity to the Orioles job placement. The University of Maryland’s law school was just down the street from the stadium. And they had a night program. Her boss encouraged her to take classes, and Huygen decided it was time. So while studying law at night, she continued to work for the Orioles during the day.
A year before she was going to graduate from law school, though, Huygen got another unusual offer—to work as a coordinator for Grant Hill in his rookie season with the Detroit Pistons. Huygen thought it was too good to pass up. She took a year off from law school and never regretted it. Before Hill’s second season started, Huygen returned to Maryland to complete law school.
Once finished, she was ready to go to work. There was just one catch. She also wanted to travel, internationally if possible. Because lawyers are tied to a state bar, she knew that wouldn’t be so easy to pull off. At the time, she was working in the general counsel’s office of a federal agency and a few people there had been in the military. They suggested she consider joining the military as a lawyer, or Judge Advocate.
“The Air Force active duty has about 1,200 lawyers or Judge Advocates. About 70% of us have no prior military service,” Huygen said.
The next thing she knew, she was in an officer’s training program. Her second career was about to begin.
NEVER A DULL MOMENT
Regarding traveling the world, Huygen got her wish. She started her career at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, then spent a year in Korea. After that post, she transferred to England, working in international and operations law doing humanitarian relief and disaster assistance across Europe, including eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
“Everywhere you find the Air Force, you’ll find an Air Force lawyer,” she explained. Depending on where she was, some of her responsibilities included employment law, criminal prosecutions, working with the local government (or host nation, when overseas), as well as questions about jurisdiction, real estate, complying with local standards, taxes, and whether or not military members overseas can carry firearms, to name a few.
“One of the huge advantages of being a Judge Advocate as opposed to a civilian attorney is that we get exposure to all different areas of practice. I enjoy doing a lot of different things, because it never gets boring.”
Quite a few assignments followed. She moved to Washington, D.C., to work at the Pentagon; Shreveport, Louisiana to work with the B-52 bomber wing; Washington, D.C., and the Pentagon for a second time; a stint in Afghanistan with the Air Expeditionary Wing; Colorado to work with a space wing that oversees satellites; and finally, back again to D.C.
Now a Colonel, Huygen is Chief of the Military Justice Division, Air Force Legal Operations Agency at Joint Base Andrews, which in layman’s terms roughly translates to working with members of Congress on legislation. She is married to Lt. Col. Conrad L. Huygen, who retired as a Judge Advocate from the Air Force.
Her time in England was one of her favorite assignments. “We were working in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. When 150 of us packed our bags and flew off to Mozambique to get a clinic up and running and provide immediate assistance to villages in the surrounding area, you could see the impact. That kind of assignment can’t be equaled.”
MAINTAINING HUTCHISON TIES
No matter how far Huygen has traveled, she has never disconnected from Hutchison. She has seven classmates from the Class of ’87 that she stays in touch with. “We’ve managed to get together in some form or fashion, some combination of us, if not all of us, every year since we graduated.”
She says having those friends is invaluable. “It makes it possible for somebody like me to go off and do something as crazy as work in professional sports,” she said, “or to join the service when I don’t have a family history of military service. It’s infinitely harder to do that and to have that sense of self and confidence if you don’t have that grounding in people around you.”
What’s next? First, Huygen returned to Hutchison in April to accept the Distinguished Alumna award as part of Alumnae Weekend.
She’s also thinking about her future. She’s served 19 years in the Air Force, and members of the military are able to retire once they have served 20 years. If she retires, she dreams of spending days on the beach, but more likely will stay involved in some type of public service work, which she believes is important.
She encourages Hutchison girls to try everything. “If it’s something that you’re interested in and if it’s something that you’re passionate about, you learn what you need to know to be good at it,” she said, adding that she still loves the practice of law. “But you begin with that basis of interest and passion, which allows you the possibility of being good at something and achieving some measure of success.”
“Hutchison girls are so well positioned to do a lot of good and to have a really positive impact, however they choose to define their community. There’s that notion that if much has been given to you, much is expected of you.” She added that while the military is not for everyone, she hopes Hutchison girls will continue to think of public service as an option.