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News | March 3, 2021

Judge Advocate Named COMSUBPAC’s 2020 Junior Officer of the Year

By Navy JAG Corps Public Affairs

With as much fanfare as 2020 would permit, Lt. DeNealia Cunningham Peterson accepted the award for the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) Junior Officer of the Year for her work as a judge advocate aboard USS Emory S. Land (AS-39). She still serves aboard AS-39 as Command Judge Advocate (CJA) and a public affairs officer.


“DeNealia is the consummate professional,” said Cmdr. Chris Kimball, COMSUBPAC Force Judge Advocate. “She has set the bar for forward-deployed, independent-duty CJAs by collaborating across command lines that span the Pacific, operating with a sense of urgency, and overcoming technical obstacles to accomplish her command's missions.”

“This … scratches the surface of what she has been doing and the passion and professionalism with which she works. I am personally inspired by the way she consistently exemplifies the core attributes and our community's governing principles,” he added.

Cunningham Peterson was born and raised in Palm Beach County, Fla. She received her Juris Doctor from Howard University School of Law and a Bachelor of Business Administration in international management with a minor in French from Pace University. She also is a 2012 Boren Fellow; the fellowship is a national security education initiative to increase language skills. She joined the Navy in October 2015 through the Judge Advocate General's Corps Student Program.

“I like to think it was chosen for me to practice law. I am a third-generation Howard University School of Law graduate and attorney in my family. Though I am the ninth attorney in my family, I am the first to serve in the JAG Corps, a first of which I am proud,” said Cunningham Peterson.

After attending Officer Development School in Newport, R.I., Cunningham Peterson completed the First Tour Judge Advocate program at the Regional Legal Service Office (RLSO) Mid-Atlantic in Norfolk, Va. 

In August 2018, Cunningham Peterson reported to Naval Support Activity Bahrain, where she served as the Legal Assistance Attorney until March 2019, and thereafter as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

“I joined the Navy because I wanted the flexibility to practice law around the world with one bar license vice having to obtain a license to practice law in multiple jurisdictions. The Navy gives me the opportunity to do just that,” said Cunningham Peterson.

Cunningham Peterson is a member of the state bar of Florida. Her personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal (three awards).

“I like to think I work diligently, quietly, impartially and thoroughly, behind the scenes, with an overarching theme of excellence and attention to detail. This has been a whirlwind tour I will remember for the rest of my life. I continue to work toward my skill development as a judge advocate by expanding my capacity with the ultimate goal of being the greatest value I can be to the JAG community and the Fleet,” said Cunningham Peterson.

“My first reaction upon learning that I was awarded this honor was surprise. I'd just finished my out-brief as offgoing command duty officer when the news was relayed to me. It was the last thing I expected to hear in that particular forum with the TRIAD.”

Bravo Zulu, Lt. Cunningham Peterson!

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