U.S. Navy and Marine judge advocates from STRIKFORNATO, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO (ESG-2), Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group EIGHT, PHIBRON FOUR, Region Legal Service Office Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia (RLSO EURAFSWA), as well as other U.S. Navy and Marine Corps commands, are taking part in the largest North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise in recent history, Trident Juncture 2018.
During October and November, 50,000 NATO personnel and partner countries are participating in the exercise, testing their ability to operate together. Thirty nations are exercising together with 150 aircraft, 65 ships and approximately 10,000 vehicles. U.S. judge advocates are serving alongside legal partners from nations such as France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Turkey, and others.
“The Trident Juncture exercise is my first experience dealing with both international and operational law and it has been truly a rewarding experience," said Lt. John Casper, RLSO EURAFSWA, Detachment Sigonella. "I have had the chance to work with legal advisors from our partner nations and see how the rules of engagement work in the NATO setting. I know I will take a lot away from this exercise and hopefully will be able to apply what I learned later on in my career as a judge advocate.”
Most U.S. judge advocates worked under the command of “MCC North,” headed by commander, Naval and Striking Support Forces NATO, acting as the Naval component of SACEUR’s Joint Task Force, which was headed by JFC Naples. MCC North judge advocates served from both the sea and land, the latter primarily consisting of U.S. Marines in Norway. Among many facets of operations, the exercise presents unique legal challenges, including issues related to the law of the sea, NATO rules of engagement, international environmental law, targeting, and laws involving the handling of real world interactions with non-exercise participants.
“One item of interest for the U.S. and NATO is how this exercise tests our ability to operate in the Far North," said Cmdr. Mary Murphy, ESG-2 staff judge advocate, serving aboard the USS Iwo Jima. "In our short time here, real world legal issues have come up requiring great flexibility and interoperability across a wide spectrum. Our ability to work together across the Atlantic and Northern Europe through different operational chains of commands has been impressive.”
According to Cmdr. Jonathan Flynn, chief legal advisor, STRIKFORNATO, "The sheer scope of Trident Juncture 2018 has provided an invaluable opportunity to understand how operations would work in a multi-national environment in a high-end armed conflict, presenting some of the most complex and challenging command and control issues I have experienced in my career." "It is clear that maritime legal advisors would play critical roles at multiple levels of NATO and national commands in any North Atlantic Treaty Article 5 scenario," he added.