Course tests JAGs' mettle
The JAG Flag field training exercise, held at the Vigilant Warrior training area at Lake Jordan, simulates the chaos of a deployed environment. (Air Force photo/Christopher Kratzner)
Course tests JAGs' mettle

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

6/3/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Air Force Judge Advocate General's School held its Operations Law Course over the past two weeks. The course is designed to focus on legal issues that might arise during deployments.

Students come from different installations as attorney-paralegal teams to participate in the course. The first week is taught in a classroom setting, according to Army Maj. Christian Deichert, an operations and international law instructor at the Air Force JAG School.

"During the first week of the course, we concentrate on academics, giving classroom instruction on the law of armed conflict, fiscal law and contracting issues, rules of engagement, international agreements, and other areas," Major Deichert said.

The second week is a four-day field training exercise known as JAG Flag at the Vigilant Warrior training area at Lake Jordan.

"Students are divided into flights, and each flight is teamed with three cadre who give them exercise material and evaluate their performance," he said. "Students practice interacting with a commander, preparing and briefing issues and answering spot questions during several staff meetings during the exercise. They will also go through several field scenarios, where students will encounter role players (mostly JAG school faculty and staff members) and have to address legal issues on the spot."

The live scenarios are a key component of the course, allowing the players to be immersed in a deployed environment, where they encounter different challenges than normal.

"The live scenarios re-emphasize the classroom instruction, giving students a chance to apply the lessons learned in the classroom. The scenarios are also designed to put students in a leadership role, something that might be outside the comfort zone of our younger attorneys and paralegals," Major Deichert said. "They also get students used to the chaos of the deployed environment, and often, they will have to react to situations on the fly, spotting issues and giving legal advice without the benefit of sitting at a desk and calmly researching and writing up a brief."

Maj. Jodi Velasco, an instructor at the JAG school and a role player in the live scenarios, said that the experience that the students get is critical in helping spot legal issues in the field.

"The students are going to need to have these skills, and the ability to understand the legal issues, spot the legal issues and adjust those," Major Velasco said. "Their job is to advise commanders, and that's what they're doing. They are trying to assess all the facts, apply the law and advise the commanders so he or she can make an appropriate decision."

Students taking the course were challenged throughout the two-week period, but the training the group received will be immensely helpful to lawyers and paralegals that are deploying, according to Capt. Lauren Rosenblatt, a student.

"The first week was in the classroom, and it was like a big fire hose of information," she said. "Then they bring us out here, and we get to apply it. It's a very good course because these are issues we are not going to deal with during our regular job, but we might deal with when we deploy. It's great training for that."

While the course was mainly taken by Airmen, there were also two attorneys from Chile and two attorneys from Australia. Flight Lt. Sarelle Woodward, a student taking the course from the Australian Royal Air Force, said it was great opportunity to view things from an international perspective.

"We've had the opportunity to interact with the Americans, who are one of our major coalition partners. There are different interoperability positions that both countries take, so recognizing the differences is going to benefit both the Americans and the Australians," Lieutenant Woodward said. "Having foreigners on the course allows us to hear different viewpoints. We've really enjoyed being out here."