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News | Feb. 2, 2022

My DCMA: GC’s Mike Sainsbury shares family history of service

By Matthew Montgomery DCMA Public Affairs

Located in the center of the Defense Contract Management Agency’s headquarters here is the office of General Counsel — the central hub for 118 attorneys and 20 support staff working across the globe to support agency operations.

The GC office space is what might be expected of a law office – a center conference room adorned on both sides with legal books containing unique cases that define government statutes. Down a hallway to the right, sits lawyer Mike Sainsbury, whose family has been defined by government service.

“My father was a WWII veteran. He served as a crewmember on B-24 bombers that flew missions in southern Europe,” said Sainsbury. “His plane was shot down in October 1944 while on a mission to Austria. He was captured and remained a German POW until his camp was liberated by the Russian Army in April 1945. He was awarded the Purple Heart amongst other decorations.”

His uncle experienced a similar fate.

“He, too, was a B-24 crew member, and his plane also was shot down. Unfortunately, he did not survive and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with his crewmates,” said Sainsbury.

Sainsbury followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Army, serving on active duty in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, known as JAG, from 1988-2011. He retired as a colonel, completing deployments to Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom during his career.

Alaska, Germany and California are among the notable locations where he was assigned, along with a four-year stint with the law faculty at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. His capstone assignment was serving as the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Lee, Virginia, for three years from 2006-2009.

Sainsbury currently works in the general law area, a kind of catch all role that he describes as “Anything can happen day.” His primary work involves coordinating interagency agreements, providing advice to the Procurement Center, advising agency leadership on law matters, conducting reviews of congressional responses, assisting on investigations and disposing of matters related to military misconduct.

In any given week, Sainsbury might even review a story like this one to ensure all the information is accurate and that the agency is being fairly depicted. Location, timing and a personal accomplishment created the perfect storm for Sainsbury to leave active duty and find a home at DCMA.

“In addition to developing my legal and leadership skills in the Army (and more importantly, teamwork skills), I had the unique opportunity to earn a Master of Law Degree in Government Procurement from George Washington University Law School in 2002. This specialized law degree, coupled with DCMA’s move to Fort Lee, really created the perfect opportunity for me once I retired from the Army,” said Sainsbury. “I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time with the right experience and education.”

Military service was passed down another generation, as Sainsbury’s son Michael decided to keep the family tradition of service going. Experiencing life in the military and seeing his father succeed in the government sector motivated the most recent Sainsbury Army officer.

“Seeing my father serve and understanding the sacrifice my family has made instilled in me a sense of service,” said Michael. “I was fortunate to land an ROTC scholarship out of high school that allowed me to accomplish my dreams of a degree and commission as an officer.”

Michael started his journey at Montana State University on a ROTC scholarship. He met his wife Aviel there, and they both were distinguished military graduates and commissioned in May 2020. Michael commissioned into the Infantry and Aviel commissioned into the Armor branch.

“Aviel is my rock and one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met,” said Michael. “Her motivation and drive push me to be the best form of myself, and I try to do the same for her. We make a great team.”

Both were assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, in the summer of 2020 for their respective officer basic courses where they excelled. Afterward, they decided another challenge was needed. Sainsbury, a proud father, shared the story of Michael and Aviel’s recent accomplishment in acute detail:

Upon completion of their officer basic courses both Michael and Aviel requested a slot for Ranger School at Fort Benning. Based on their performance in their OBC and the Army Physical Fitness Test, both were offered a slot for Ranger School. Additionally, Michael completed Airborne School at Fort Benning in November 2020.

Ranger school is broken up into three phases – Darby phase, Mountain phase, and Swamp phase. The entire course is 61 days.

Michael’s first attempt at Ranger School started in November 2020. He completed the grueling four-day Ranger Assessment Program and began his training in Darby phase. He tore his meniscus and was medically recycled until April 2021.

In Michael’s second attempt, both Michael and Aviel started Ranger School together in April 2021 and both completed RAP. RAP traditionally has about a 40-50% attrition rate. As far as we can tell, Michael and Aviel are the first married couple to start Ranger School together.

At the end of the Darby Phase, Aviel was a “GO” for mountains and Michael had to be recycled and was required to re-do the Darby Phase. Although they did not see each other much during Darby, they were able to spend some time together and provide each other support during the training.

Aviel went on to complete both the Mountain Phase and the Swamp Phase with first time “GOs” for both phases. She is one of just a handful of female Rangers who have completed Ranger School without a single recycle. She continued to provide support to Michael by leaving notes behind for him that he would find when he went through Mountain and Swamp phases.

Aviel graduated Ranger School in June 2021. She is the 76th female Army Ranger, the first Asian-American female Army Ranger, and the first female Ranger to start Ranger school with her husband (as far as we know).

After recycling through Darby Phase, Michael went on to complete Ranger School with no further recycles and earned his Ranger Tab in July 2021.

Both are first lieutenants and currently assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Much like the story Sainsbury shared, the Army also pushed him to his limits several times.
“They developed me as a leader and gave me opportunities as a young man and a young lawyer I never would have had in the private sector,” said Sainsbury. “I was proud to serve and equally proud my son is a third generation Soldier.”

For those considering a career in law, Sainsbury said to consider the JAG Corps. “It’s a great way to gain a lot of experience, self-confidence and leadership skill at an early age. Also, look for challenges in the federal government where you can excel and sharpen your skills, and don’t let your law career interfere with having a fulfilling life outside of work.”