- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Retired Lt. Col. Sarah Scullion says she was always looking to go somewhere and always looking “for the next cool thing.”

After a 21-year career with the Air Force that sent her all over the world, her next cool thing is working as an instructor with the new Junior Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Howell High School, according the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus ( https://bit.ly/1sciNG0 ).

“I love to teach,” said Scullion, who retired from the Air Force July 1. “I found out about the Howell opportunity by fluke.”

Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Reinhart spearheads the Howell Junior ROTC program.

A Marquette native, the 47-year-old Scullion was raised in Mount Pleasant, where she graduated from high school in 1985. She comes from a long line of travelers who are mostly in the education or law fields.

Her parents are teachers and her uncle, brother, grandfather and cousins are all attorneys.

It is a path Scullion followed, first attending Michigan State University, where she graduated early with a degree in international relations because she spent time studying and earning credits overseas.

In her sophomore year at MSU, Scullion lived in Scandinavia and the Soviet Union, where she studied comparative sociology. She also taught English as a second language in Taiwan before working at her family’s Lansing law firm.

Because she graduated early, Scullion had about eight months to wait for law school to begin and she spent it in Northern Ireland, where she worked thanks to two research grants.

She was overseas when her law school application came in, so her family filled out the form.

During law school at Indiana University, the traveling bug continued to burn in Scullion.

“I didn’t want to take regular law school classes because, honest to God, I couldn’t stand law school,” Scullion laughed.

As a result, Scullion took classes through Cambridge University in the United Kingdom where she was a Snyder Visiting Scholar. Her assignment was to conduct research at the Center for International Law for a reference book on the law in Northern Ireland. She believes she got the gig because she had prior experience in Ireland.

“It was literally like Harry Potter,” Scullion said, referencing a popular book and movie character. “I had access to hundreds of years-old documents, and I was trying to find the origins and legal basis in how the law changed when it came to Northern Ireland and the British rule. They used me to find these obscure laws that related to how they structured control over that disputed territory.

“I loved it. It was a grad-assistant type position, and I hung out with the faculty,” she said. “It’s these experiences and work stuff that got me where I wanted to go.”

It also was an experience unique to her in comparison to her law school classmates who didn’t have the international experience.

When her schooling finished, Scullion returned to work at her family’s law firm, but she soon found it wasn’t fulfilling. She tried clerking for a Circuit Court judge, which she called a “great way to learn practicing law.”

Her best friend, though, was about to help Scullion change her life.

The Air Force recruited Scullion’s best friend, who was in dental school, and she invited Scullion to give the military a look.

Scullion found home. With the Air Force, she could achieve her desire to travel and practice law internationally.

She signed on the dotted line and in July 1993 she became a commissioned Air Force officer.

Scullion’s first assignment was at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, where she worked as chief of contract law and legal assistance. She was then asked to go to the Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland, where she served as a deputy staff judge advocate on NATO. She returned to Florida before then moving to Germany, where she enforced U.S. law over military members and resolved host-nation jurisdiction issues.

Scullion also had stints at the Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina and at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany, where she was deployed to Afghanistan and served as sole legal adviser to 180 international military and civilian staff from 23 countries. She trained thousands of students and was an instructor for NATO Force Protection and Military Police courses.

In her early 30s, Scullion began to think about having a family and she considered leaving the military. However, as fate would have it, she was reacquainted with a boyfriend she had dated 10 years earlier while living in Northern Ireland.

“It was like I was 21 again,” she said. “Nine months later, we got married.”

Her husband encouraged her not to give up her career and she found “my urge to get out was gone.”

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Scullion was set to be discharged for medical reasons after a surgeon mistakenly cut the tendons in her foot, making running impossible.

Scullion and her husband, who was running a restaurant and teaching boxing, decided to purchase a bar/restaurant in the Canary Islands, where he would run the restaurant and she’d teach.

Days before they were scheduled to leave, however, she received a letter saying the Air Force would retain her. If she left the Air Force at that point, she’d lose her benefits, so while Scullion went to her next assignment, her husband spent months in the Canary Island opening the restaurant, which he then sold before joining her again.

Three years later, Scullion decided to retire from the Air Force.

Scullion began looking for jobs in Michigan and Washington, D.C., but she found nothing on her visit.

She had returned to Germany, where she was stationed, when she learned that Howell Public Schools was looking for an ROTC instructor.

Her brother lives in Howell, and Scullion decided to apply. She got the job.

Scullion said she’s thrilled to be at Howell, where she’s implemented a mentor program for the scores of students in ROTC.

“When you take charge of a unit in the Air Force, you’re required to meet with everyone so they know your expectations, goals, your wants and desires,” she said. “I started a brand-new mentoring program.”

Scullion meets with each student individually, and they set goals and expectations. She will meet with them regularly to assess their achievements in meeting those goals.

She gives credit to the program, however, to Reinhart, who has started ROTC programs at two other school districts, she said.

Scullion said ROTC is not a recruiting program, but rather an “all-encompassing program” designed to teach the students respect for themselves and others.

“This isn’t to raise military people,” she said. “It’s to make good citizens who are self-disciplined, goal-oriented, of good character, who help their community and can be good followers as well as leaders.”

Scullion and her husband plan to make their home in the Howell area. They are the parents of four children, two of whom are in high school in Ireland and one of whom is in the Air Force. The fourth is at home.

___

Information from: Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, https://www.livingstondaily.com

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