By Lt. Kaylan E. Kaatz, Region Legal Service Office Naval District Washington
This past month, Region Legal Service Office Naval District Washington (RLSO NDW) hosted a commissioning ceremony for Lt. j.g. Melisa Wink, welcoming her as the newest member of the RLSO NDW and Navy JAG Corps wardroom.
Wink, a 2018 honors graduate of George Mason University School of Law, checked aboard RLSO NDW in 2015 as Cryptologic Technician Collection 2nd Class Wink, the third Sailor to have earned her law degree through the JAG Corps In-service Procurement Program (IPP).
Established in 2013, the IPP competitively selects fleet Sailors for a funded law degree and a JAG Corps commissioning path similar to that which the longstanding Law Education Program (LEP) provides for line officers.
Since 2013, two RLSOs (Naval District Washington and Hawaii) have served as a home-base for the first five IPP Sailors to attend law school.
During Wink’s commissioning ceremony, Capt. Rock De Tolve, RLSO NDW’s Commanding Officer, recalled the words of Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi and Master Chief Legalman Paul St. Sauver, then the JAG and JAG CMC respectively, on the established the IPP in 2013. In a statement marking the IPP’s establishment, DeRenzi noted that, “The JAG Corps IPP provides a commissioning option for talented and motivated Sailors. Officers commissioned through JAG Corps IPP will provide the diversity of perspective, thought, and experience not widely found in the civilian law student population.” St. Sauver’s remarks were similarly prescient, “JAG Corps IPP will expand the pool of applicants from which we recruit judge advocates. It will provide key enlisted fleet experience to the JAG Corps, thereby significantly enhancing the value of the JAG Corps to the fleet.”
Wink and four other outstanding IPP Sailors who’ve entered the IPP to date have made DeRenzi and St. Sauver’s vision into an impressive reality.
In 2017, Lt. j.g. Christopher Salmon became the first Sailor to graduate from law school under the IPP, a landmark achievement. He earned his law degree at George Mason University and was assigned to RLSO NDW. Truly impressive, Salmon set a platinum standard for IPPs to come, graduating with honors and performing remarkably during his law school summers supporting RLSO NDW and several other legal offices in the D.C. area. After graduation, Salmon passed the Hawaii bar exam, attended Officer Development School (ODS) and the Basic Lawyer Course (BLC) at Naval Justice School (NJS) and is now a First Tour Judge Advocate (FTJA) at RLSO Japan. Salmon notes enthusiastically, “the JAG Corps IPP is an amazing program. It provides a fantastic opportunity for motivated Sailors to go to law school and become a Navy judge advocate without having to separate from the Navy.”
In 2018, Lt. j.g. Sharon Soileau became the second IPP student to earn a law degree and, in yet another landmark achievement, is the first Legalman IPP. She earned her law degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law while assigned to RLSO Hawaii. She is originally from Fairbanks, Ala., and has been in the Navy for 12 years. She served on the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and at Defense Service Office (DSO) Pacific. On her own initiative, she attended law school part-time in the evenings until she was selected for IPP. She is particularly interested in serving as a Defense Counsel and someday a judge. In fact, while still a Legalman, Soileau was selected as DSO Pacific’s Sailor of the Year in 2015. After graduating from the University of Hawaii and passing the Hawaii bar exam, she completed ODS and BLC. She is currently an FTJA at RLSO Hawaii.
That brings us back to Wink, now the third Sailor to graduate under the IPP, hails from Chicago, Ill. and has been in the Navy for six years. Her pre-IPP assignments as a Cryptologic Technician included tours at the Center for Information Dominance and Navy Cyber Warfare Development Group. Wink chose to apply for the IPP because it was “the perfect way to mesh her two dreams in life: being a lawyer and being a sailor.” Wink’s keen intellect, maturity, and eagerness to learn made her an ideal candidate for summer rotations at some very senior, high-visibility flag-level legal offices in the D.C. area. Her summer rotations included the Office of the Judge Advocate General National Security Law (Code 10) and Cyber, Information Operations and Intelligence Law (Code 30) Divisions; the Region Staff Judge Advocate’s office; Director, Navy Staff and Vice Chief of Naval Operations legal offices; and, most recently, U.S. Fleet Forces Command where she was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal by the four-star commander there for her outstanding legal support. After graduating, Wink passed the Washington D.C. bar exam and is currently at ODS. She will complete her FTJA assignment at RLSO Mid-West in Great Lakes, Il. Wink hopes to gain experience in national security, military operations, and cyber law, but is also eager for deployment opportunities, joint command assignments, and “working closely with Sailors and their families to provide them legal services.”
Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Thaddeus Tate is currently a 3L at George Mason University’s law school and assigned to RLSO NDW. Tate is impressive – he completed his first year of law school on his own, at night, while working fulltime as an Intelligence Specialist in the Pentagon at the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (OPNAV N2N6) office. Originally from New Orleans, La., Tate has been in the Navy for nine years. He served with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two, Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command, and most recently, was an Intelligence Analyst assigned at Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot. Tate chose to apply to IPP because he “wanted his success to be measured by the good he can do, not billable hours.” This past summer, he interned with the OPNAV N2N6 legal office and participated in a highly selective summer abroad program in Italy through George Mason. After law school, he plans to take the D.C. bar and hopes to gain experience in Operational Law and Military Justice.
Electronics Technician (Nuclear Power) Senior Chief Josh Kinning is currently a 2L at George Mason University’s law school assigned to RLSO NDW. Kinning is originally from Otsego, Mi., and has been in the Navy for ten years. He served onboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), deploying twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and was an instructor at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. Kinning chose to apply to IPP because it “allowed him to continue serving his country, begin his desired profession, see the world, and work in various legal assignments.” This past summer, he interned at the Chief of Naval Personnel legal office, helping to support the three-star commander and staff, and thoroughly enjoyed his experience there. He also joined Tate, participating in the highly selective summer abroad program in Italy. After law school, he hopes to gain experience in administrative and personnel law fields as well as gaining experience as a staff judge advocate.
While in law school, the local Region Legal Service Office works closely with IPP candidates to secure internships to enhance their career progression and keeps them apprised of community updates. IPP candidates also receive mentorship and they attend all-hands functions, social events, and the occasional PT session when their schedules permit. For advice from prior IPP selectees, please visit Navy JAG Corps In-Service Procurement Program Application Tips.
How to Apply to the Navy JAG Corps IPP
The IPP provides outstanding, career-motivated enlisted personnel of all ratings, who meet the eligibility criteria, the pathway to earning a commission in the Navy JAG Corps. Some selectees may have the opportunity to train to complete a Juris Doctor degree. For more details on the Navy JAG Corps IPP, eligibility criteria, and application procedures, please visit www.jag.navy.mil or contact a local JAG Corps professional development officer (PDO), judge advocate, senior enlisted leader, or the JAG Corps Accessions Program (PERS 4416). Also, please consult Navy Program Authorization 111A and the annual NAVADMIN announcing the convening of the next IPP Selection Board.