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(Enlarge) Pvt. Thomas takes a test during a Basic Combat Correspondent course at the Defense Information School Nov. 12.

Twenty years ago, the Defense Information School at Fort Meade was nonexistent.

Service members whose occupational specialty was public affairs, visual information or broadcasting were spread out in Florida, Colorado and Indiana.

Then, in 1991, the American Forces Information Services conducted a study that concluded that consolidating the three occupational fields was cost effective.

Between 1993 and 1998, the Navy School of Photography in Pensacola, Fla., the Air Force 3420th Technical Training Group at Lowry Air Force Base, Colo., and the Army's Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., slowly made the move to what has become known as DINFOS.

"To put it simply, we are the hub for public affairs and visual information training and career development for all services," said Staff Sgt. Eishaw Meade, DINFOS public affairs noncommisioned officer in charge.

Currently, DINFOS offers about 32 courses and has about 500 students. In addition to military students, civilians who work for the Department of Defense and the Department of State also have the opportunity to become DINFOS students.

Each year, DINFOS also graduates about 50 international students. Those students are nominated by their individual countries and sent to San Antonio, Texas, to learn English before coming to DINFOS, said Michael Gannon, assistant commandant for Institutional and Academic Affairs.

Gannon said he is proud of the students as well as the instructors. DINFOS has 191 instructors and 24 Guard and Reserve instructors. With the help of these instructors, which Gannon refers to as "the best of the best," DINFOS is able to graduate about 3,200 students each year.

Some of the courses offered at DINFOS include the Basic Combat Correspondent Course, Basic Public Affairs Specialist-Writer, Intermediate Public Affairs Specialist Course and Intermediate Photojournalism.

Seaman Matthew Cole has been at DINFOS for nearly six months. In that time, he has taken BPAS-W, Basic Still Photography, an electronic journalism course, and a video and production course. The Basic Still Photography class was Cole's favorite, he said, because he liked going out to the public.

Cole enjoys DINFOS because he likes being in a learning environment. "The icing on the cake was meeting new friends," he said.

DINFOS has three goals: to deliver total professional developmental support to organizational communicators throughout their careers; to sustain itself as a premier accredited military/government training center and optimum career assignment for faculty and staff; and to be the DoD and interagency center of excellence for organizational communication.

"Five years ago, most of our courses were entry level," Gannon said.

To achieve DINFOS' goals, staff has since added intermediate and high-level courses.

Seaman Recruit Christopher D. Fairbanks is taking the basic mass communication class. He's just two weeks shy of graduating and transferring to Mississippi. Fairbanks said he enjoys the diversified student body and "learning more and getting to know the different branches better."

Students have a wide array of options after graduation. Photographers can go to a combat camera unit; journalists can become staff writers at a post's newspaper; broadcasters can go to an American Forces Network radio or TV station.

Gannon works with local colleges, agencies and other DoD schools to ensure that students are getting the best training possible.

"Whether we're teaching a photographer or a writer, they both have an obligation to get information to the American public," Gannon said.

For more information, visit www.dinfos.dma.mil.

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