How does one explain to a sixth grader what a Navy JAG Corps officer does? Not only is it possible; it’s essential. We need to plant seeds early. As I learned last month during Career Day at E.J. King High School – the local Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) facility – the work I do each day as a JAG Corps officer resonates with students of all ages. They are never too young to learn about career opportunities in the legal field, or joining the military. The students I met at the DODEA school here in Sasebo, Japan, on Dec. 6 ranged in age from 12 to 18. I explained to them that lawyers use the rule of law to settle disputes peacefully and fairly. And I discussed how lawyers help families like theirs in myriad ways – from officiating marriages, to protecting people making significant purchases, to arbitrating disagreements between neighbors, to defending people in court. I asked the students: How many recent law school graduates enjoy the privilege of practicing law in a foreign country at the age of 24?
The JAG community promises experiences that can’t be found elsewhere. Last month’s event was my second recruitment event at the school. And, as a Career Day veteran of sorts, I have a few tips for success. First, to obtain a schedule of outreach events, JAG community members stationed overseas should enlist the help of school liaison officers. Those who are stateside should consult local community relations and public affairs professionals, or talk to colleagues with school-aged children who can connect them to a guidance counselor. At an outreach event, it’s important to dress the part – I wore my Service Dress Blues, as if I was preparing to argue a case in court. Your booth should be bright and inviting – and remember to stand in front of your table, not behind it. Bring props – interactive tools like iPads are always a draw. And candy – nothing attracts students to your booth quite like candy!
Not every DODEA student knows what they want to do in life, and those that do, do not necessarily know the amount of education they need to achieve that goal. For that reason, it is important to tell them early in their education what amount of schooling they will need to fulfill their dreams. Events like Career Day help me make a face-to-face connection with these students. In addition to lawyers, I explain to them, the military includes a diverse collection of professionals – from archaeologists to microbiologists. Whether they serve the JAG community, or another field or branch of service, an incredible, globe-spanning career awaits. I encourage all of my colleagues in the JAG community to participate in outreach events like Career Day as often as possible. As the economy grows, competition for the best and brightest people grows as well. We need to illustrate to young people why a career within the JAG community, and the military, can be exciting, fulfilling and rewarding.