November, Master Chief Legalman Jondell Ritchie, the command master chief (CMC) of Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC), and I took part in a whirlwind trip to Navy Region EURAFSWA. Though we were unable to visit all of the hard-working personnel stationed in this expansive region, we did stop in three key locations – Bahrain, Sigonella and London.
Nov. 5: Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain
Our first office call was with the staff judge advocate for NSA Bahrain and officer in charge of the Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) detachment. We then met with the entire RLSO staff and also conducted various one-on-one discussions. Before heading off to lunch at the Officer’s Club, we also met individually with personnel at the Defense Service Office (DSO) branch office Bahrain, and we learned more about their current caseload. After lunch, we toured the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) building and met with the JAG community staff and general counsel. I then met with Vice Adm. John Aquilino, commander, NAVCENT, who gave rave reviews of the legal support staff.
Next, we walked over to the local Fleet and Family Support Center, where we met with the Victims’ Legal Counsel. Later in the day, we took a tour of the new RLSO and DSO spaces. The new construction includes a courtroom – a much-needed and exciting new development. Overall, CMC Ritchie and I were very impressed with the high caliber of work being done in Bahrain – the officers, enlisted, and civilian personnel all function very efficiently in a fast-paced environment.
Nov. 7: Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella (I and II)
After a day of travel, we kicked off our visit to NAS Sigonella with a tour of the RLSO EURAFSWA detachment. We met with the staff judge advocate for NAS Sigonella and officer in charge of the RLSO detachment. We then had one-on-one meetings with members of her staff. I had lunch with local leadership at the base galley, including the commanding officer of the installation and the commanding officer of the Fleet Logistics Center of Naval Supply Systems Command. We then met with civilian personnel to discuss their perspectives on various issues. I was glad to see the close working relationship between local national Department of Navy civilians and active-duty staff – they truly are a team! We then kicked off a virtual roundtable discussion with remote RLSO EURAFSWA civilian staff members. Finally, we headed to the Fleet and Family Support Center, where we met with the center director and the sexual assault response coordinator, followed by a one-on-one meeting with the Sigonella Victims’ Legal Counsel.
Nov. 9: London
After another travel day, my time in London began with a working breakfast with the paralegal specialist at our London branch office. He is a tremendous JAG community asset who has unique institutional knowledge and insight into UK legal issues. I then traveled to Whitehall, the UK’s Ministry of Defense building, where I met with the Royal Navy’s head of Naval Legal Services and the Royal Navy’s senior international lawyer. I was thrilled to sit down with them, face-to-face, and discuss international legal issues impacting both our countries. After a walking tour of downtown London, I traveled to Northwood, the UK's principal military headquarters site and home to NATO regional command, Allied Maritime Component Command. There, I met with the commander, Submarines NATO/Deputy Chief of Staff Submarines, NATO Allied Maritime Command, a fellow Naval Academy graduate. The day concluded with a final meeting in the branch office at Royal Air Force Blenheim Crescent. We were very fortunate during this trip to see so many members of our JAG community, who are stationed in remote areas overseas. We appreciate their sacrifices and all they do for our community, and for our country. It was a wonderful trip!