Lt. j. g. Richard Robertson and Lt. j. g. Corey Mitchell were the first legalmen to promote via the Reserve Direct Commission Officer Program in May 2020. They hosted intimate, virtual commissioning ceremonies during the summer – observing COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings – but their achievements were applauded across the worldwide JAG community. Robertson and Mitchell are now attending Officer Development School in Newport, R.I.
A direct commission officer is a U.S. uniformed officer who has received an appointed commission without completing the typical educational or service pre-requisites. Each year, the Navy Reserve’s Direct Commission Officer Program evaluates a highly competitive pool of applicants before selecting individuals with expertise and experience that will advance the Navy’s global mission.
Both Robertson and Mitchell hold law degrees, and they applied for the program in 2019 after consulting with their local recruiters and current members of the Navy Reserve Law Program. For both, the application process spanned nearly a year, and they each submitted an extensive package – detailing their educational, professional, and personal backgrounds – which was considered by several rounds of selection boards.
“The Direct Commission Officer Program appealed to me because I had recently graduated law school and I wanted to practice law in the Navy,” said Mitchell. “I saw that as an excellent opportunity to grow my Navy career and my civilian career. I also felt like I had more to offer as a JAG officer than I did as a Legalman.”
While serving as an active-duty Legalman, Mitchell graduated Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School in May 2015, and he passed the Georgia bar exam in February 2016. He currently is assigned as defense counsel at Navy Reserve Defense Service Office Southeast in Norfolk, Va. He will attend the Basic Lawyer Course at Naval Justice School in early 2021.
Robertson’s path to a naval commission was less direct and required significant perseverance.
“When I was told about this program, it sounded like it was built for me,” said Robertson. “I enlisted in 2007 as an Intelligence Specialist in the Navy Reserve with the goal of becoming an officer, and the dream of being a JAG. But because I thought law school was too expensive, I had written off that part of the dream.”
Robertson later left the Navy to join the Army National Guard. He applied for law school during Army basic training, and he subsequently received his juris doctor degree from Ohio Northern University’s College of Law. After passing the bar exam and acquiring his license in 2015, Robertson attended George Washington University School of Law and completed his master of laws degree in National Security and US Foreign Relations Law. Thanks to a supportive mentor – and after working for two years as a deputy prosecuting attorney in Indiana, as well as a private attorney – Robertson returned to the Navy Reserves in 2017. He applied for the Direct Commission Program twice, and earlier this year, he was notified of his selection.
“I am thrilled that it happened. I am glad that the struggle is over, and I now get to live the dream,” said Robertson, who will attend the Basic Lawyer Course at Naval Justice School in early 2021. He is currently assigned to Navy Reserve Region Legal Service Office Midwest, and is looking forward to opportunities to serve with the active-duty force.
Mitchell is most excited about future trial work; he is eager to litigate as a prosecutor or defense counsel. Both feel very fortunate to have been selected for the Direct Commission Officer Program.
“I am truly humbled by this accomplishment. It is not something that comes easily or to everyone. I appreciate the selection, I thank those that believed I would make a good JAG officer and I look forward to a successful career,” said Mitchell.
The Navy Reserve Law Program currently includes more than 400 lawyers practicing in the fields of military justice, command advice and support, legal assistance, international and operational law, administrative law, admiralty and maritime law, and other specialized areas. They serve throughout the U.S. and in several foreign countries.