College of Law

Maysaa Ouza '17

A Call to Serve: Toledo Law Alumni in the Military

by Rachel Phipps '07
Sept. 1, 2018

Mayssa Ouza
Photo: Shebab's ProMedia LLC

Even before she received her degree from Toledo Law in May 2017, Air Force 1st Lt. Maysaa M. Ouza '17 made legal history. Just before graduation, she was selected as a new Air Force JAG Corps attorney—but with the distinction of being the first hijabi selected for this role.

Ouza, who will be promoted to the rank of captain after completing the judge advocate staff officer course this fall, sees similarities between life in the military and wearing the hijab. Both require lives of structure and discipline. "My hijab is an asset to the Air Force, not a liability," she says. "The defining aspect of my character is my unwavering dedication to leading a life of structure and immense discipline. Capitalizing on these characteristics, it made intrinsic sense to serve our country."

Ouza recognizes that being a trailblazer requires both grit and persistence. Before commissioning, she was told that Air Force policy would require her to temporarily remove her hijab while she applied for a religious accommodation. Ouza, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Dearborn, Mich. law firm of Hammoud & Dakhlallah Law Group, persuaded the Air Force to grant her a religious accommodation before she commissioned—allowing Ouza to wear her hijab from the first day of training. She applauds the Air Force for reconciling its emphasis on tradition and uniformity with its commitment to attracting promising recruits who reflect the country’s diversity.

Maysaa Ouza in training
Lt. Ouza conquers obstacle course during training at Maxwell AF Base

Ouza's family was influential in her decision to pursue a military career. Her parents emigrated from Lebanon before Ouza was born. "This country has afforded my parents opportunities and privileges that would not have been given to them anywhere else. My parents always had and continue to have deep admiration and respect for our military," she says.

She is quick to credit Toledo Law's Office of Professional Development (OPD) in helping her prepare for the rigorous JAG Corps application process. "OPD helped me prepare extensively for my Air Force interview," she says. "The mock interview sessions were very beneficial; as a result, I felt very comfortable going into the actual interview."

She started her Air Force career at a five-week commissioned officer training, where Ouza was the public affairs officer for her class, which meant she was responsible for documenting the class’s experience and overseeing the group's morale. She was named "Airman of the Week" after being nominated by her fellow officers.

Though she has been on active duty only since March 2018, Ouza is eager to make her mark. "Many people who look like me fear rejection, and thus will not apply for jobs like this," says Ouza. "I want to break those barriers."

This excerpt is taken from an article originally published in the Fall 2018 Transcript alumni magazine, which features additional stories of Toledo Law alumni in the military

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