WMU-Cooley, as a Military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. This month we feature WMU-Cooley law student John Pickens who is a former Staff Sergeant with the United States Air Force.
Military rank and title: (Prior) Staff Sergeant (E-5), United States Air Force
Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: I have wanted to make a difference by helping everyday people from day one. I chose WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay over Barry School of Law and Florida A&M due its practical legal skills approach as opposed to legal theory or academia approaches. Although accepted to all three law schools, location and practical legal skills were my primary concerns and most important in my law school decision. My desire to learn the law was inspired during my service in Air Force Security Forces. Completing an honorable six-year enlistment with the Air Force provided the foundation and discipline I would need for law school.
As a man of faith, I have always believed there is no higher profession than public service. I firmly believe that, in the end, it’s how I served during my life matters and not how much wealth I have accumulated. Since higher education was highly valued and continually emphasized throughout my childhood, I faced a new challenge and question after serving in the military – how could these core beliefs coexist? There is a scripture that goes “He will make our crooked paths straight.” With that, the answer to my dilemma would soon become clear. For years, I have had hidden interests in the courts, politics, sciences and our socio-economic beginnings as a whole. All of these entities are touched and woven into our nation’s fabric of law. I soon would recognize that a legal education could be used to effectuate much change in my community and nation, just as did my military service. Continuing my education with the end goal of public service would be realized and pursed at WMU-Cooley Law School.
Career Description: As an Air Force Security Forces member, your mission is to protect all personnel and property assigned. During my six years of active duty service spanning from 2002-2008, I conducted law enforcement, installation security, air base defense and detainee operations. In support of missions both overseas and stateside, I secured aircraft, satellite and nuclear weapon systems valued at millions of dollars. As Staff Sergeant, I was also responsible for providing supervison of newer security forces, airmen securing protection level resources and government property. In Security Forces, I trained and qualified in various weapons systems, including the M-9 beretta, M-4 carbine rifle and M-249. I was stationed to a variety of Air Force Bases including Kirtland New Mexico, Thule Greenland, MacDill Tampa, with a deployment to Bagram Afghanistan. Now a full-time law student student and veteran, I often reflect on my military service and experience. It was truly an honor to serve. All of my assignments have been challenging yet rewarding as they shaped who I am today.
Career goals: There are a multitude of career opportunities a law degree from WMU-Cooley grants, but commissioning as an Air Force JAG is my top goal. Serving in Air Force Security Forces gave me the opportunity to serve my fellow airman and represent the nation. As an Air Force JAG, I will continue to serve, only this time as a legal advocate. During my second year of law school, I applied for and was offered an externship opportunity with the 6th Air Force Judge Advocate unit on MacDill Air Force Base. I cannot say enough great things about the entire staff at WMU-Cooley and the Air Force. They both worked in a collaborative fashion to assist me throughout the entire externship process. The externship experience has been a great blessing and honor. I could not have asked for a better law school and would advise anyone considering WMU-Cooley to look no further.
Tell us a little about you: Graduating from law school and performing great service in the community and nation with my legal education remains my number one goal. As for a little about myself, I was born in Boynton Beach, Florida. I am one of three siblings; two older sisters and a younger brother. Our family believes in keeping God first, so staying involved with faith-based activities is extremely important to me. My other personal passions include; hiking nature trails, playing the drums, reading, kickboxing and staying up-to-date with political issues of the day. I look forward to having a family of my own one day, but remain grateful for where I am, what I have, and where I am going.