By Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE, Colo. — Two Airmen from the 50th Contracting Squadron are ready to prove they can handle the truth.
Second Lt. Michael Kilbourn, 50th CONS plans and programs flight commander, and 2nd Lt. James Slattery, 50th CONS contracts manger, recently learned they were accepted into law school.
Kilbourn learned his dream was becoming a reality Dec. 6. 2018, followed three weeks later by Slattery.
“The application process was both difficult and anxiety ridden,” Kilbourn said. “It took me about nine months to get the entire application together. I started out by taking a face-to-face Law School Admission Test preparation course in Denver twice a week, with about five-eight hours of outside study weekly for eight weeks. Then, I sat for the more than four-hour-long exam.”
Slattery said the process was nerve-racking, but being able to talk with people who had gone through the same process helped.
“The craziest part of the application process was Kilbourn and I actually took the LSAT on the same date, June 18, 2018, before I had entered active duty and before we had met.”
Each man has a unique motivation for becoming a lawyer.
“I have known I wanted to pursue a law degree since 2016, when I had a personal tragedy occur and unfortunately a mistrial was declared in the prosecution of the perpetrator, ultimately allowing the individual to avoid punishment,” Slattery said. “Since then, I have wanted to ensure that no other people endure the awful feeling of injustice proceeding the loss of a loved one.”
Kilbourn had considered the idea for years, before reading Bryan Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy.”
“It really put into perspective the uphill battle the American legal labyrinth presents for the marginalized,” he said. “I was inspired to better understand the law so that I may be able to one day advocate for those in need.”
While both men were ecstatic to learn of their acceptance, they were equally joyed for each other.
“I think the folks in finance directly below my office may have thought the ceiling was coming down after I leapt into the air when he delivered the news that not only was he attending, but was given a hefty scholarship,” Slattery said.
Kilbourn shares similar sentiment.
“Somehow I feel like I’m more excited for James than I am for myself,” he said. “I was his sponsor when he first arrived, and we have a lot of common interests. Fast forward several months, finding out that he’s been accepted at Ivy League law schools, I am elated for him! The overall experience has forged a bond between us that I feel fortunate to have.”
No one was more proud of the two men than Maj. Neal Wall, 50th CONS commander.
“I was very surprised, in a good way, to learn that two 50th CONS second lieutenants had been accepted into law school,” he said. “Finding out they were both accepted around the same time while assigned to the same contracting unit is awesome and unique.”
The path the two men trod together will soon fork in different directions. Kilbourn will start law school in the Fall, attending classes in Denver on the weekends. Slattery’s acceptance has been deferred a few years, which will allow him the opportunity to apply for the Air Force’s Funded Legal Education Program.
The aspiring attorneys are hopeful their background as contracting officers will aid them through the educational process.
“There is major overlap between what’s demanded of law students/attorneys and of contracting professionals,” Kilbourn said. “One of the first courses we will take as law students is ‘Contracts.’ Being a contracting officer can’t hurt. Ultimately, I know it’s still going to be an incredibly challenging venture.”
Slattery hopes to pursue the prosecutorial side of criminal law. Kilbourn said he wants to work behind the scenes as an advocate for the average citizen. Although these desires will likely take the two men in opposite directions, both acknowledged the slim, but possible, chance of crossing legal wits in the future.
“I call James, ‘Lieutenant America,”’ Kilbourn said. “Needless to say, I would not want to be his adversary. I’m fortunate to be on his team as a member of 50th CONS. It should come as no surprise if I am working for him somewhere at some point in the future.”
Slattery likewise gave deference to his friend.
“For the sake of any future cases I have, I definitely hope to never be on opposite sides of the courtroom as Mike,” he said. “All kidding aside, after my Air Force career comes to an end I would love the opportunity to work with him again.”
Since the path for both men remains long, Wall looks forward to them continuing to excel and motivate 50th CONS.
“We are fortunate to have these two officers; both are top notch lieutenants,” he said. “Since his arrival, Kilbourn has successfully executed many contracts in support of Schriever’s missions while also leading the 50th CONS plans and program flight. Slattery has hit the ground running by making multiple positive mission impacts as part of the base infrastructure flight and successfully planning and executing several Air Force contracting senior leader visits. Both of these officers are proactive and excel in everything they do and live up to the AF’s core values 24/7.”
While both men know the journey to discovering “who ordered the code red” within their respective areas of law will be a challenge, they’re ready for it.
“I am most looking forward to leveraging the law, the framework of our democracy, to help folks gain access to opportunity,” Kilbourn said.
Slattery’s outlook is similar.
“I am looking forward to helping those in need,” he said. “While the advantages of obtaining a juris doctorate are numerous, I see the potential to help others through advocacy/representation as one of the greatest benefits.”
Wall indicated both men are indeed ready to handle the truth.
“They lead and excel when those opportunities arise,” he said. “They each have a clear vision of where they want their careers to go in the future and they have each set goals to achieve that vision. The combination of vision, goals, hard work and consistently excelling in everything you do will always be a recipe for success in life.”