By Lt. Mely Rodriguez, Region Legal Service Office Mid-Atlantic
Region Legal Service Office Mid-Atlantic’s (RLSO MIDLANT) recruiting team hosted another successful “A Day in the Life of a U.S. Navy JAG” event, welcoming 33 prospective judge advocates – including law students, licensed attorneys, naval officers, and enlisted sailors – to their command on Feb. 4.
The event included various briefs and panel discussions on the Navy JAG Corps application process, the first tour judge advocate (FTJA) program, billets beyond the FTJA program, and military justice. Guests also had the opportunity to tour the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and meet their legal team.
This was the second time that our team planned and executed ‘A Day in the Life of a U.S. Navy JAG.’ We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our guests after the event last year, so we knew we had to host it again this year. In fact, RLSO MIDLANT’s recruitment event was so successful last year that it was later adopted by other RLSOs and Office of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps Military Personnel (Code 61).
This year’s “A Day in the Life of a U.S. Navy JAG” not only increased in size, but also included candidates from each of the four Navy JAG Corps pathway and accessions programs – Student Program, Direct Appointment, Law Education Program, and In-Service Procurement Program.
“While most judge advocates commission through the Student Program, it was important for us to highlight that our community includes individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some judge advocates practiced law as civilian attorneys before commissioning through the Direct Appointment program, while others have prior military experience as naval officers or enlisted sailors,” said Lt. Jake McMurdo, RLSO MIDLANT Recruiting Officer. “When advertising the event this year, our team reached out to the University of Richmond, William & Mary, Elon, Wake Forest, North Carolina Central University, and Regent University and to tenant commands onboard Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Oceana, and Joint-Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Our goal was to spread the word about ‘A Day in the Life of a U.S. Navy JAG’ not only to law students and licensed attorneys but also to naval officers and enlisted sailors.”
The event kicked off with introductory remarks from the RLSO MIDLANT Triad (Capt. Peter Koebler, Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Hollis Simodynes, Executive Officer, and Senior Chief Legalman Myron Chism, Senior Enlisted Leader) who each shared their personal career experiences, and provided insight into the mission of the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. Guests also learned about the FTJA program and its “6-6-12” rotation structure from a panel of current FTJA.
The FTJA program is unique to the Navy JAG Corps and provides the opportunity to gain knowledge and skill in different areas of law very quickly. Not every service offers judge advocates the
opportunity to rotate through each major legal department during their first tour, which is a huge draw for candidates.
“A Day in the Life of a U.S. Navy JAG” also included a military justice brief by RLSO MIDLANT Senior Trial Counsel, Cmdr. Courtney Lewis, and Defense Service Office Southeast (DSO SE) Senior Defense Counsel, Cmdr. Benjamin Robertson, which provided an overview of the military justice system from both a prosecution and defense perspective. During the brief, Lewis and Robertson explained the similarities and differences between the military justice system and the civilian criminal justice system. They also highlighted the types of cases that judge advocates most often litigate, and shared their personal experiences in the courtroom.
To conclude the event, guests attended a “Billets Beyond the FTJA Program” panel that discussed the types of jobs available to judge advocates after their first tour and subsequently took a tour of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). During the panel, Cmdr. Joan Malik, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, presented an informative brief on environmental law and explained what her duties and responsibilities are as a Fleet Environmental Counsel. Lt. Cmdr. Will Burroughs, supporting Naval Special Warfare, Lt. Michelle Flash, Submarine Squadron SIX, and Lt. Ryan Turner, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), all provided insight into the role of a staff judge advocate and the types of legal issues they are exposed to on a daily basis.
While onboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), guests met the ship’s staff judge advocate, Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Pike, the Disciplinary Officer, Lt. Kate Shumway, and the many legalmen who compose the ship’s legal team. Guests not only toured their legal workspaces, but also had the opportunity to walk around the ship’s flight deck and bridge. During the tour, the crowd’s excitement was remarkable, especially for those who had never seen a naval warship, let alone an aircraft carrier.
After the event, the RLSO MIDLANT recruiting team again received an outpouring of positive feedback from guests. “I found the event extremely informative and enjoyed the opportunity to meet current JAG officers. I hope that you are able to continue offering this program in the future because it was truly a unique experience,” said Sakeinah Perry, a second-year law student at North Carolina Central University.
“Recruiting is absolutely critical to the continued success of our organization. We are in direct competition with prestigious law firms, state and federal employers, and the other Services for talent. RLSO MIDLANT’s recruiting team put together an information-packed event, reaching out to and welcoming candidates for the Student Program, Direct Appointment, Law Education Program, and In-Service Procurement Programs. With this holistic approach, the candidates could look around the room and see for themselves that the Navy JAG Corps’ strength is truly in our diversity,” said Simodynes.