'09 Academy grad goes from gridiron to courtroom

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Looking at him now, you wouldn't think you were looking at a once 280-pound Falcon Football offensive lineman.

"I usually answer this question with a question of my own: 'What position do you think I played?'" said Capt. Tyler Weeks, a 460th Space Wing Staff Judge Advocate intern an a 2009 Air Force Academy graduate. "The answers I receive have ranged from safety to running back to punter. The truth is I played guard on the offensive line but nobody would think that looking at me now. I am almost 100 pounds below my former playing weight at 280 pounds."

Weeks played for the Academy during his four years there and recently spent time in Buckley Air Force Base's judge advocate office on his way to becoming a judge advocate general.

His interest in the Academy began as a boy while attending summer football camps held there. This interest intensified when his older brother attended the Academy, which provided Weeks with greater insight into what the Academy could offer a young man.

"After my brother Justin earned his appointment to the Air Force Academy, I received a firsthand perspective of what cadet life entailed -- and I was immediately hooked," Weeks said. "The challenge was enticing to me and I wanted to put myself in an environment where I would be pushed to reach my fullest potential in the classroom, on the football field and as a military leader."

Weeks was a three-sport athlete at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. He played football, baseball and wrestled but was recruited by the Academy to play football while in attendance.

While at the Academy, Weeks was challenged mentally and physically, but Weeks is the type of guy who said he enjoys a challenge, and feels he is better for having to work for everything he's accomplished.

"Any success that I have experienced in my life has come as a result of hard work, sacrifice and persistence," Weeks said. "Achieving success has never been automatic or easy for me and, honestly, I think that I am better for it. It's only when you have to push yourself to work harder than anyone else and fully commit to achieving a goal that you appreciate what it takes to succeed."

Weeks said he has many memories of being a part of the 'bolt brotherhood' while attending the Academy. From playing for coach Fisher Deberry, to beating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in front of 88,000 fans his senior year, Weeks cited his experiences as an intercollegiate athlete as giving rise to fundamental leadership characteristics that have developed him into a competent leader.

"The Air Force Academy is a leadership laboratory," Weeks said. The entire experience is designed to grow officers of character, ready to lead the Air Force, and I think playing football, or competing in any intercollegiate sport as a cadet, really adds to that targeted leadership growth. In order for the Academy to succeed as a football program, for example, an immense amount of preparation, discipline, and accountability are required at both the individual and team levels. Sharpening these skills while competing as an intercollegiate athlete pays huge dividends for a cadet's leadership growth and ultimately, I think, helps to produce more capable officers."

While at the Academy, Weeks completed a management degree and continued on to receive his Master of Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis. However, while in attendance at the Academy, Weeks used a majority of his elective credits on something he found fascinating -- law.

After graduating from the Academy, Weeks began his career as a financial management officer. However, Weeks realized that, although he was enjoying and succeeding in his career field, his passion and desire to practice law continued to resurface.

His desire to become a JAG led him to apply for the Funded Legal Education Program, which offers a select number of officers a fully paid scholarship from the Air Force to attend a law school while remaining on active duty. Weeks also applied to the Excess Leave Program, a program also given to a select amount of officers to attend law school at their own expense.

Due to low manning in the financial management career field, Weeks was turned down from the FLEP and ELP programs several times before finally catching a break. Due to changing force requirements, the Air Force finally gave him an opportunity to become a JAG by accepting him into the FLEP program in 2014. Weeks now attends the University of Colorado Law School and has used this summer to intern at the 460th SW SJA.

His experience in the FLEP program has been a blessing, Weeks stated. He has had the opportunity to have many experiences tied to his pursuit of becoming a JAG and values the journey he is currently on.

"Outside of the classroom, the FLEP has enabled me to spend this summer at Buckley, gaining valuable experience in military law as an intern in the 460th Space Wing legal office," Weeks said. "During my internship, I have worked on a wide range of legal matters involving military justice, adverse actions, environmental regulations, and contract disputes --- all areas of the law that I will soon encounter as a JAG."

While at Buckley AFB, Weeks has made a positive impression on the Airmen he works with each day.

Senior Airman Amanda Belarde, a 460th SW SJA paralegal, has enjoyed working side by side with Weeks during his internship. She said Weeks is eager to learn and understand how a legal office works. Although being Belarde's superior, he has also taken an interest in understanding the paralegal perspective and has been very helpful in any tasks she's needed assistance in.

His experience at Buckley has been valuable and has given Weeks insight into how a legal office on an Air Force installation works.