With his years of experience and lifelong passion, it should come as no surprise that Lt. Charles “Chuck” Ball was named the Military Commissions Defense Organization’s (MCDO) Officer of the Year.
Ball joined the Navy in the spring of 2016 at the age of 40. After more than 15 years of experience in private practice, and a lifelong desire to serve in the military, a friend from the Army encouraged him to apply.
“In hindsight, leaving my old firm wasn’t the best thing to do for my family or financial stability, but I had always wanted to serve in the military. I applied without thinking too hard about it, and thinking it would be fun, but unlikely that I would be chosen at my age,” Ball said. “Of course, I was honored to be chosen, and still dedicated to serve my country and help out in any way I can.”
During his initial training at the Naval Justice School (NJS) in Newport, R.I., Ball turned 41 and, now 44, believes that he is the oldest active-duty lieutenant in the Navy JAG Corps.
“When I first joined, I really enjoyed challenging the young men and women at NJS to feats of strength – you could invariably find me outside challenging anyone to pull-up competitions, ultimately distracting them from anything justice-school related,” Ball said. “I still look forward to getting outside every day, and, if you are up for it, I’ll see you at the pull up bars!”
After NJS, Ball had to complete the Navy’s two-year First Tour Judge Advocate program, which sent him to different types of jobs at different commands.
During that time, he was assigned to Capt. Brent Rush and Cdr. Garrett Snow at U.S. Fleet Forces Command to help them with the Glenn Defense Marine Asia caseload.
“I really enjoyed being there and working on those cases. I don’t think the Navy realized it, but I was what we call a frontier law dispute resolution specialist in private practice prior to me joining the Navy, and I happened to focus primarily on South and Southeast Asia,” Ball said.
In November 2018, Ball was detailed to the MCDO to assist on the Nashwan al-Tamir (charged as Abd Hadi al-Iraqi) defense case.
“When I joined Nashwan’s team, there were only three lawyers, and they had just turned over with the previous legal team, so I was joining a legal team that was relatively new to the case,” Ball said. “I just focused on working with my new team and our client, knowing that my tour would be relatively short at two or three years.”
The current team now has six lawyers and 12 support staff working to defend the rule of law for their client. They have recently had success with the case at the D.C. Circuit court, which has ordered a hold on the military commission case onboard Guantanamo Bay.
“The other lawyers and support staff on our team are some of the best I have ever worked with – and I spent 15 years at some of the world’s biggest and best law firms – our paralegals, case analysts, investigators, and military and civilian lawyers are phenomenal, and they are the main reason our team is so strong and winning motions,” Ball said.
Because his children are grown and half of them are away at college, Ball’s schedule permits extensive work travel, and if it wasn’t for the recent COVID-19 outbreak, he would either be at the Guantanamo Bay detention center meeting with al-Tamir, or on the road gathering information and witnesses for the case in support of al-Tamir’s legal team.
Al-Tamir’s defense team is led by a civilian lawyer, Susan Hensler, who will see the case through to the end, giving al-Tamir some continuity as military lawyers rotate in and out. Ball, with his years of experience in international legal practice, is helping Hensler until he receives different orders.
Hensler says, “Lt. Ball’s assignment to this defense team was game changing. He is the consummate team player. His considerable legal experience and unique skillset quickly rendered him an integral part of our team. His singular commitment to the mission, as well as his dedication to the Navy and his teammates, is inspiring.”
“We are all pleased to see that he is getting the recognition that he deserves for his tireless work, and I am personally thankful to the Navy JAG Corps for detailing one of its finest officers to our team,” Hensler added.
When he learned of his Officer of the Year Award, Ball said that he was simply surprised.
“I truly didn’t expect it at all. It took a few days to sink in and I am very happy to have been chosen. Although, I am sure that there are many other officers at the MCDO that deserve this award more than I do. I look forward to getting back on the road for al-Tamir and continuing the fight in his defense,” Ball said.
For his selection as Officer of the Year at the MCDO, Ball was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal by Chief Defense Counsel, Marine Corps Brigadier General John Baker.