News | July 8, 2021

RLSO NDW Billet Spotlight: Naval Air Station Patuxent River

By LCDR Steve Buckley

When considering where the Navy is conducting some of its most cutting edge science and technology, you may not think of Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NASPR) or Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP), but on these two bases, you will find commands that are at the tip of spear of Naval Aviation and science and engineering research and development. LT Ashlee Goodwin gets to interface with some of the most knowledgeable personnel regarding our operational Navy as the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) at Regional Legal Service Office Naval District Washington (RLSO NDW) BROFF Patuxent River, assisting not only the installations, but also over 60 tenant commands.

NASPR is the site “where the future of Naval aviation begins” as the Headquarter for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, the Atlantic Test Range, as well as 50 other tenant activities. It serves as a center for test and evaluation and systems acquisition relating to naval aviation. The cutting edge squadrons located at NASPR lead the way in development of new aircraft, weapons, and mission systems.

NSASP serves as the host command for two historic naval installations in the region: Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, Virginia, and Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Maryland. The mission of the command is to sustain combat readiness through effective shore installation management and support, and as the base landlord, NSASP provides management functions as supporting more than a dozen commands belonging to all services that reside onboard NSASP installations. These commands employ one of the largest concentrations of scientists and engineers in the NDW area, conducting groundbreaking research and development and providing critical operational support to the Department of Defense.

In her role as SJA to two senior installation commanders, Goodwin and Legalman 1st Class Steward, provide legal support to commands across 9 facilities. She advises on the typical SJA legal areas; however, because the installations are home to multiple Flag-level commands, many of the issues Goodwin oversees are “high visibility,” requiring her to coordinate with many staffs, services, and agencies onboard.

Always ready to diversify the SJA portfolio, Goodwin is one of two Maryland Special Assistant United States Attorneys (SAUSA). As a SAUSA, she works hand in hand with one of RLSO NDW’s reservists, who works for the Department of Justice, to assist the local United States Attorneys’ Office with the federal prosecution of crimes committed onboard the various installations within the AOR.

Goodwin has been able to develop a wide breadth of SJA skills in a very independent setting, while still having the RLSO NDW Command Services Department available to work with as a sounding board for all the varied and unique challenges that arise. Having Washington D.C. so close, with all the experienced senior judge advocates in the area, has been invaluable to her. With a great team of Command Services attorneys at the RLSO, Goodwin also had the ability to participate in Combined Command Post Training (CPPT) 21-1 in South Korea. CCPT 21-1 afforded Goodwin the opportunity to advise on Rules of Engagement (ROE), targeting, information operations (PSYOP/MISO), detainees, interrogations, interdictions, CIVCAS reports, humanitarian assistance, and jurisdiction issues.

Working out of two offices in very different locations, one at Patuxent River and one out of Dahlgren, has given Goodwin an atypical perspective into both the aviation and surface aspects of the Navy. NSASP hosts a large number of surface warfare personnel as it conducts a great deal of naval weapons testing at its long ballistic range on the Potomac River. NASPR, on the other hand, is primarily aviation and tests new aircraft and aerial weapons systems.

“I’m so fortunate to be in such a diverse billet, where one day I hear missiles firing down the Potomac from my office, and in the same week I can hear F-35s fly overhead at my other office. It’s a rewarding experience and humble reminder of our role as judge advocates, which is to support the warfighter,” Goodwin says of the unexpected ways she gets to “hear” the support that her team provides the operational Navy.

RLSO NDW BROFF Patuxent River is a hidden gem amongst JAG Corps billets. The access available to the SJA on the newest platforms in Naval aviation and rare opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else but in the Potomac area make it a fantastic billet for anyone interested in seeing what the Navy’s future will look like. The independence will also increase your own capabilities and knowledge as a legal professional to support everything from the foundational SJA practice to the unique challenges of working with high level senior commanders onboard the numerous supported installations.