The Navy JAG Corps publicly announced on May 23, 2018, the establishment of a new partnership with the U.K. Royal Naval Legal Services Office.
The U.S.-U.K. Bilateral Legal Partnership is a cooperative effort between Navy legal communities from the two allied nations, which promotes the exchange of ideas and best practices, particularly in national security law.
In April, Vice Adm. James W. Crawford III, judge advocate general (JAG) of the Navy, and Rear Adm. John G. Hannink, deputy JAG, met with Capt. Stuart Wright, Royal Navy, Captain Naval Legal Services, in Norfolk, Va.
Wright was joined in Norfolk by his colleagues, Cmdr. Ian Park, Lt. Cmdr. Tom Evans and Lt. Cmdr. Pete Barker. The visit marked a milestone after more than two years of work to establish this critical partnership.
"It's remarkable to see how far we've come. What began as a small conversation in 2016 about the role of the U.S. Navy carrier strike group judge advocate has since grown tremendously," said Crawford. "These efforts led to the embarkation of a Royal Navy judge advocate during exercise SAXON WARRIOR to assist him in his deployment as the first legal advisor for the U.K. aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth."
In addition to Crawford and Hannink, the U.K. legal representatives met in Norfolk with Capt. Keith Gibel, commanding officer of U.S. Region Legal Service Office Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia (RLSO EURAFSWA); Capt. Michael Holifield, force judge advocate for Commander, Navy Installations Command; Capt. Joe Hoelz, director of Office of the Judge Advocate General's National Security Law Division (Code 10); and Cmdr. Greg Saybolt, deputy force judge advocate of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe - Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet (CNE-CNA-C6F).
During their stateside visit, the U.K. legal representatives toured USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), dined at the U.S. Fleet Forces Command Flag Mess, and took part in an in-depth strategy meeting about the U.S.-U.K. Legal Bilateral Partnership and future reciprocal opportunities.
They also attended the first day of the Navy Judge Advocate General's Training Symposium (JTS) East 2018, a learning event for U.S. judge advocates that occurs every three years. At JTS East, Wright presented a brief to the approximately 300 attendees about the recruitment, training and employment of lawyers in the U.K. Royal Navy. At the conclusion of Wright's presentation, Park briefed attendees on U.K. and European human rights law litigation.
"I'd like to take a moment to pay a very public tribute to Vice Adm. Crawford," said Wright at the conclusion of his JTS East presentation. "Without your personal commitment and investment in this legal bilateral relationship, sir, we would not be where we are today."
The U.S.-U.K. Bilateral Legal Partnership was conceived in 2016, after Crawford met with U.S. and U.K. legal personnel during a site visit in London. Afterwards, leaders at RLSO EURAFSWA, CNE-CNA-C6F, and Code 10 began communicating and interacting more frequently with their U.K. counterparts, and U.S. judge advocates attended the "Naval Legal Services International and Operational Law Course" in Portsmouth, U.K. in September 2016 and 2017.
Reciprocal training has become a cornerstone of the partnership. U.K. personnel attend the U.S. led International Law of Military Operations course; Barker currently serves as a research assistant at the U.S. Naval War College Stockton Center; and Lt. Jade Gaudet, who is assigned to RLSO EURAFSWA, recently became the first U.S. naval officer to attend the 2018 Oxford Course for Military and Government Lawyers.
"Joining the Royal Navy for their annual international law training at Oxford University was truly a world-class experience," said Gaudet, who completed the month-long course in March. "I look forward to helping build this experience into a permanent feature of the growing U.S. Navy-Royal Navy legal community partnership."
All indications are that the U.S.-U.K. Legal Bilateral Partnership will continue to flourish. In addition to expanding U.S. involvement in the Oxford University and Naval Legal Services Office training, other exciting initiatives are underway. For example, the two legal services, along with the U.S. Marine Corps legal office, are working closely together on preparations for a joint deployment in 2021 aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.
To learn more about the JAG Corps, or about the services provided by judge advocates and their colleagues, visit www.jag.navy.mil/.