Housing management specialist continues to improve career field and IMCOM-Europe team

By Mark HeeterFebruary 28, 2024

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany – It all began with the “USA” license plates that Geert-Jan Hendriks saw when traveling in the Mannheim area in the mid-1980’s.

“I always wanted to go the United States after school, for an exchange program, but it never worked out. So I thought, ‘Maybe I can work for the U.S. Government,’” Hendriks said, recalling his introduction to the idea of working for the U.S. Army in 1987.

Thirty-six years later, Hendriks, born and raised in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, looks back on those early days in Mannheim and the career in Army housing offices that they led to.

“My first few days were difficult. I thought I had learned English in school, but it was the British English, and so I had difficulty,” Hendriks said. “But I also didn’t understand my German colleagues, because they came from the Mannheim area, and they spoke the dialect. So I told my wife, ‘This isn’t going to work out. I need to go back.’”

But this was the early days of automation and computers, with which Hendriks had gained some skill in the Netherlands.

“We were implementing this new housing system called Homes, and I got involved with that. The Chief noticed that and pulled me up to his office to do all kinds of special things that we do in housing,” he said. Doors opened, and Hendriks took advantage of an internship and quickly became a leader among housing professionals.

“I was the local national representative to the career program 27 career field,” he said, which enabled him to attend conferences in the United States, expand his network, and participate in and lead training for colleagues across Europe.

“I became the expert in General Officer quarters and high-cost leasing, and I still am today,” Hendriks said, adding that he also helped create the in- and out-processsing for housing that is still used today, nearly 30 years later.

For many years, Hendriks was heavily involved in the Professional Housing Management Association, serving as the director for its European Region from 2000 to 2016.

“I really, really enjoyed doing that for the people here in Europe,” Hendriks said, especially because of the soft-skills training that the PHMA advanced, such as conflict resolution and customer service, or as he said, “all the things we need in housing.”

“My goal is just to share everything I know with other people. Work itself is important, but I like training people, helping them do their job,” he said.

Married since 1990, Hendriks has one son and enjoys the outdoors, especially one annual hiking trip he’s undertaken for 20 years.

“Once a year I hike in the Alps, with a friend from the United States. He comes over every year, and we have a friend in Germany. We get together and we go do that,” he said.