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Cougar Interview–Capt. Bill Ostan '01

by University Relations

As the command judge advocate at the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia, Captain Bill Ostan ’01 embodies the honorable qualities of a dedicated soldier in the United States Army. A recent recipient of the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth highest military award, for exceptionally meritorious service, Ostan reflects on his ongoing commitment to the military, his decision to serve others, and what it truly means to be a leader.

APU LIFE: You earned the Bronze Star Medal, for dedication to duty during combat operations in Afghanistan. What role did you play?

OSTAN: From 2012–13, I served as the command judge advocate for a Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. I was the legal advisor for Army Green Beret and Navy Seal commanders as they carried out combat operations. Every day was different, but each 24-hour period entailed situations that required advice on Rules of Engagement or the Law of Armed Conflict. The specifics of those situations remain classified, but I can say that it was a demanding job that regularly required on-the-spot decision-making, which might make the difference between life and death.

APU LIFE: What does this honor mean to you?

OSTAN: It is humbling and unexpected. I started my deployment with the intent to perform my military duty with excellence and integrity, but I am grateful that my commanders felt I acted in such a manner that deserved their commendation.

APU LIFE: What guided your decision to join the military?

OSTAN: There were many factors, but the tipping point was in 2004 when U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan. Tillman gave up a lucrative multi-million dollar NFL contract to join the Rangers, serve his country, and go to war. His sacrifice moved me. I realized I had lived a very blessed life in America without ever sacrificing anything for my country, and I knew I needed to change that. At the time, I was in the middle of simultaneously earning my Juris Doctor and Master of Public Policy in International Relations degrees from Pepperdine University, so I decided to become an Army officer and attorney upon graduation.

APU LIFE: You served as associated student body [ASB, now Student Government Association] president at APU. How did that and other college experiences impact the way you conduct yourself in the Army?

OSTAN: ASB president was the first leadership position I ever held where I truly realized that leading people is more about them and less about myself. As an officer, I have the authority to give orders, but I know that positions of power and influence exist in order to serve others. The most lasting and significant lesson I learned at APU, however, has more to do with the importance of mentorship. Dr. Terry Franson [current senior vice president for student life/dean of students] helped mold my character during my time there, and we stay in close contact today. He was a strong, godly support through my successes and failures, and I would be a lesser man if not for him. Because of his immense impact, I have sought mentors throughout my Army career.

APU LIFE: You’ve served in the military for nearly seven years. Is this a lifetime career?

OSTAN: God has given me a lot of favor in the military, so I might make it a career if the Army deems me worthy of continued promotions. I have an amazing Army wife, Jennifer (Wilson ’01), who gracefully handles the rigors of being married to a soldier. We have twin, three-year-old daughters, Abby and Kate, who are the little loves of my life. I enjoy being a soldier, but I absolutely love being a daddy. At some point in the future, I do believe that God has called me to be a statesman. I don’t know where, when, or how, but I sense the call and am willing to obey.

Originally published in the Summer '14 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).