John "Lou" Michels Class Of 1977
I am a product of the Midwest, having been raised in Winnipeg MB and Bloomington MN. I arrived at the Academy not really sure of what I wanted to do with my life, but like so many of us found a direction and purpose there.
I finished USAFA in 1977 as a Distinguished Graduate, and then flew as an EW in the RC-135 program. Probably the highlight of my flying career was escorting official Soviet flights into the United States. I met several senior Soviet officials as a result, as well as spending time in Moscow, Havana, and a few places in between. After that, I served as a JAG trying military cases , and developing a specialty in employment law. I continued to work as an employment attorney in federal and state courthouses following my transfer to the Reserve in 1991. I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2003.
I have been a partner at three major US law firms, and established employment practices for all of them. I also conducted internal investigations for Fortune 100 companies.
In 2019 I left law practice to work as the CEO of an Italian 3D printing design company in Bologna. Bad COVID timing, but a learning experience. I returned to legal work in military and federal employee cases, where I am practicing now.
Because I believed that it was essential for USAFA graduates to maintain an identity that distinguished them in both the Air Force and American culture, I participated in Association activities immediately as a junior officer. Our Association is crucial to maintain connections among graduates of all classes and between graduates and USAFA command and the cadet wing. To those ends, I have served as class scribe for 38-plus years. Like many of you, I was an ALO, working to maintain contact with the next generation of officers. I restarted the Chicago Chapter and served as its president. I taught as an adjunct faculty member to provide cadets with insights into our legal process and show them something I did not have--a 60 year-old graduate with a full military and civilian career.
We now see differences in cultural perceptions among and between the graduate community and USAFA leadership that go to the heart of our identity. We are kidding ourselves if we think this disconnect will not have major consequences for graduate support. The Association is the common ground among these worlds and is the best chance for a dialogue that does not dissolve into a vitriolic shouting match.
I have experience in dealing with these issues because of my legal career and because of my long involvement in USAFA. I believe I can help this process of finding areas of agreement that will keep the Association a valued contributor to the Academy mission, and a valued voice of the graduate community.