The Navy JAG community's In-Service Procurement Program (IPP) Selection Board convened to consider 13 highly qualified candidates on Feb. 4, 2020. The board relied upon the “whole person” concept to identify applicants with the greatest potential for successful service as a Navy judge advocate. Ultimately, Legalman 2nd Class Cade A. Sawyer was named the 2020 IPP selected.
In 2014, Sawyer enlisted in the Navy, and he began his career with a two-year assignment aboard the USS Constitution. After a subsequent six months at Naval Justice School, in 2017 Sawyer began a tour with Coastal Riverine Group ONE (CRG-1) at Imperial Beach, CA. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in pre-law from National University in 2019.
Sawyer grew up in a self-described “toxic” household, and two of his siblings were affected by violent crimes when they were younger. Another sibling was shot three times during a robbery a year after Sawyer joined the Navy. He said the decision to become a lawyer and seek justice was an easy one for him. Sawyer was 20 years old and homeless when he joined the Navy six years ago.
“I've always had a strong work ethic and my own mistakes led me to homelessness. I joined to rectify that and to better myself. The Navy instilled discipline in me that I severely needed – I learned harsh lessons from homelessness, but it taught me true hunger and what rock-bottom really feels like. That spark has become the fire that is my motivation, and I am always striving to be the hardest working person in the room,” Sawyer said.
When Sawyer learned he had been selected for the IPP, he said, “I was shocked, to say the least. I couldn't believe it was real and genuinely felt like I was dreaming. I was then flooded with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, excitement, relief, and joy. My goal was to become a judge advocate and advocate for my fellow Sailors. Regardless of whether I was chosen for this role, I would still be working to pursue being an attorney in the world’s greatest Navy,” Sawyer said.
The Navy JAG community IPP provides both funded and unfunded paths to JAG Corps commissions. Sailors who have earned a baccalaureate degree may apply for funded legal education; Sailors who have already earned a Juris Doctor degree from an American Bar Association accredited law school and a bar license from any U.S. state or territory, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia may apply for direct commission.
The JAG community IPP is open to active-duty enlisted personnel and Navy full-time support personnel, in any rating or military occupational specialty, in pay grades E-5 through E-7 with at least two years and not more than 10 years of service at the time of application. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and under the age of 42 by the time of commissioning. Complete application procedures and education requirements are provided in an annual NAVADMIN and can be found in the “Careers” section of the
JAG community’s website.
“Cade’s work ethic and determination to be involved in the betterment of himself and his command stood out to me from the get-go … ‘Ma’am, I am going to finish my bachelor’s, and then use my GI bill to go to law school and become a lawyer,’ he said with the quiet confidence that comes from a person who’s made a true promise to himself,” said Lt. Cmdr. Lindsay Pepi, to whom Sawyer currently reports.
“I knew he had the dream and I knew he had the drive, so we made a plan to develop his skills and his portfolio to transform his capabilities into measured legal capacity. Reading, writing, research – he was all too happy to put in the reps. It was like he was waiting for these challenges his whole life. When I mentioned IPP and directed him to the instruction, he printed it out and told me about how he accelerated his bachelor’s so that he could graduate in time to apply,” Pepi added.
“Our mission was to develop an IPP package that showed how Cade was a well-rounded, well-educated Sailor who demonstrated the initiative to be well-connected to the legal community he wished to serve,” Pepi said. “Because he was such a solid and engaged Sailor everywhere he worked, it was actually quite easy to reach out and get letters of recommendation. The hardest part to put into words was his personality and background, which I hoped would show the IPP board that he had the resiliency and the depth of perspective to truly appreciate the gift of education and would use it to transform lives.”
Persistent in his personal growth – with a deep dedication to the Navy and living by its values of honor, courage and commitment – Sawyer was the “whole person” the IPP Selection Board was seeking.
“Honor, courage and commitment are not simply words we say as Sailors, and they are the creed we must live by both in and out of uniform. As an officer, you must be the example, you must be the shining testament of what it means to be a United States Navy Sailor,” Sawyer said.