This week’s interview is with Dan Sloat, an Air Force captain turned law student. After graduating from Indiana University, Dan got his commission in the Air Force as an air battle manager. He spent 6 years managing air operations before deciding to focus his efforts towards law school at the University of Oklahoma. I recently was able to catch up with Dan shortly after his honeymoon (busy man!). Let’s see what Dan has to say!
- What’s your military background? Career, family, etc.
I served just over 6 years Active Duty in the Air Force as a 13B Air Battle Manager with deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve, as well as Counter-drug operations in Latin America. Now, I’m serving out the remainder of my MSO in the Inactive Ready Reserve.
- What is it that you wanted after you left active duty? Do you think you’re where you wanted to be?
In the interest of providing a more stable home life for my future family, I went back to school for my Juris Doctor. Next week I’ll begin my 2nd year at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. And yes, this exactly where I wanted to be.
- What is it about your service experience do you think has best prepared you for your transition?
Law school can be very challenging and most classes come down to a single 4-hour essay exam to determine whether you have mastered the material or not. Without any feedback throughout the semester, you need a high level of self-discipline to stay on track with studying. That attribute is critical to any service member in my opinion. ABM training in particular has a strong focus on developing precision communication – relaying even just one incorrect digit in a lat / long coordinate for a strike mission can be a fatal mistake. Similarly, the absence of a comma has been construed to render a legal contract entirely void. Attention to detail has been vital to my transition.
- Think of the most challenging part of your life to this point. What is it that you’ve done that helped you through it?
I tore my ACL junior year of college and I was genuinely afraid I wouldn’t be able to run like I used to. Loss of the full use of one of your legs brings hardship in its own right but my prospects of finishing ROTC and commissioning were at stake too. It took a great deal of trust and grueling physical therapy but fortunately my recovery was largely successful and I never earned less than an Excellent on a fitness exam while I was on active duty.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident were you in your financial situation as you transition?
I’d say a 9. When I transitioned from active duty, my wife, Hayley and I had already purchased a home and she earns more than enough to cover our expenses while I finish up school. In fact, with the GI Bill stipend I cover all of my own personal living expenses including my half of the mortgage.
- What was the biggest fear about your transition?
Hayley has a career in the Energy Industry and as many know, oil prices can be rather volatile. Naturally, I do worry about a sudden layoff for her but she has been very responsible with her Savings so I’m confident we could weather such a financial storm together.
- If you had one question that someone could (or could have) answer for you (not doing something for you, but a question that they could answer), what would it be?
Will the legal field be able to accommodate a career for me in 2018 with a compensation comparable to my peers who stayed on Active Duty? Most likely I would have made this transition regardless but the answer to this question could have better informed my decision for the exact timing.
- What would you like to see “out there” that doesn’t exist, but if it did, it would solve a big problem for you, and other people like you?
Honestly, I’ve been satisfied with the resources available between departing active duty and entering law school regarding the overall transition.
- What person has helped you through your military career and/or transition the most?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m going to have to answer with Hayley, my wife. We started dating after my second deployment despite her justified reservations about the difficulties and stressful demands of a relationship with a member of the US military. Even so, she was very supportive during my third deployment – sending thoughtful care packages every month for the better half of a year. At the same time, she was willing to sacrifice some of our time together on Skype so that I could study for the LSAT (law school entrance exam) and provided encouragement to believe that I was smart enough to handle doctoral work.
- Do you want to be contacted by people who think you might be able to help them? If so, how do people get in touch with you?
Sure, I’ll gladly help any way I can – firstname.lastname@example.org < Caution-mailto:email@example.com > . Thanks and Godspeed!