In June, as part of my statutory oversight duties, I traveled to Japan, Korea, and Guam to meet with local units doing exceptional work in one of the busiest parts of the world. Our personnel in the Asia Pacific Area of Responsibility (AOR) – regardless of assignment – are confronted by complex issues on a regular basis. In each location, I connected with senior leaders, toured installations, and met with the local legal communities.
Japan: Yokosuka June 19: I arrived in Japan in the immediate aftermath of the collision between USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and MV ACX Crystal. I witnessed firsthand a caring community and was gratified to see the professionalism and dedication to mission of those responding to this tragedy – including the legal teams at each of the Task Forces and the Region Legal Service Office. I met with Rear Adm. Gregory "Fence" Fenton, commander, Naval Forces Japan and Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander, 7th Fleet, as well as their legal staff. We talked about the challenges facing investigators, and about the Casualty Assistance Call Officer (CACO) process and guidelines. Beyond the daily operational requirements of the area, the region commander and the base commanding officer face unique legal issues due to their location in a foreign country. I had an extensive conversation with Capt. Jeffrey Kim, commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, to discuss various foreign criminal jurisdiction matters. Finally, I sat down with the local Victims’ Legal Counsel (VLC) team to discuss training needs and other issues they’re facing.
June 20: My second day in Yokosuka focused on our teams at the Japan Regional Legal Service Office and Defense Service Office headquarters. During a virtual town hall meeting, we engaged in a thoughtful discussion about the health of our community, my priorities, and the important work taking place throughout the AOR. At a meeting of area core O-3/O-4 personnel, entitled “Challenges and Lessons Learned While Practicing in the Asia-Pacific Area of Responsibility (AOR),” the participants brought to my attention issues of travel burdens, technology connectivity issues, and alternative online platforms for providing legal assistance to Navy families. Finally, my discussion with local first tour judge advocates brought up questions concerning work-life balance and innovative ways to foster a culture of high-velocity learning throughout the enterprise.
Japan: Atsugi June 21: I spent the third day of my trip at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, where I enjoyed a base tour and met with the local legal team, including Fleet Air Forward Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Cmdr. Dave Christenson and NAF Atsugi Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Andrew Giddings. I also met with Commodore Rich Priest, commander, Fleet Air Forward, to find out how the JAG community can better support his critical work.
Japan: Sasebo June 22: My visit to Fleet Activities Sasebo included a series of fruitful meetings with members of the local legal team. We discussed some of the challenges they face, including managing caseloads that include clients in far-flung locations.
Republic of Korea (ROK) June 23: In Busan, I met with Commander, Naval Forces Korea, RDML Brad Cooper, and the outgoing and incoming Naval Forces Korea Force judge advocates, Lt. Cmdr. Meredith Werner and Lt. Cmdr. Tom Eaton, to learn more about the critical work they’re doing in the region, and possible manning changes to address their increasing operational requirements. I also spent time with outgoing and incoming U.S. Forces Korea Force judge advocates, Cmdr. Sarah Stancati and Cmdr. Steve Obert, learning how their role in operational and international law issues has changed and will continue to change in the area. I met with Army General Vincent Brooks, Commander, U.S. Force Korea, United Nations Command and ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, for an insightful discussion that included his reliance on timely and precise legal advice that he receives from his force judge advocate on a daily basis. I also took part in two illuminating meetings with Capt. Kang, commander, ROK Fleet JAG, and Vice Adm. Jin-sub Jung, commander, ROK Fleet. We discussed establishing a legal education program and explored the potential for a JAG exchange program in the future.
Guam June 26: It was a busy day in Guam filled with several important meetings and events. I met with Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Commander, Joint Region Marianas and U.S. Naval Forces Marianas. We talked about the support she’s receiving from the JAG community, and the impact of the increase of Naval Security Forces in Guam. I also met with the Combined and Joint JAG/GC Legal Team and talked about the necessity for environmental law expertise in Guam. I then connected with Mr. Harry Elliott at the Joint Region Marianas Office of the General Counsel. Mr. Elliott and I discussed growing workloads, paralegal support, notary training and other items of concern. As you can see, this was a very instructive and productive trip. As I continue traveling around the fleet, I look forward to hearing what’s on the minds of my colleagues across the enterprise.