News>Enabling the mission: JAG Corps announces law school programs
U.S. Air Force Capt. Katherine Rankin, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate Office chief of discharge, uses a Manual for Courts Martial as a reference during a peer-practice session at the Langley Air Force Base, Va. legal center, June 14, 2012. The session, often called a “murder-board” helps prepare lawyers for upcoming court cases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton/Released)
A plaque with an inscription from the preamble of the Manual for Courts-Martial adorns the wall of the Langley Air Force Base, Va. legal center. Judge Advocates who work at the center are constantly reminded by its words that their primary purpose is to promote justice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton/Released)
U.S. Air Force Capt. Katherine Rankin, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate Office chief of discharge, practices courtroom procedures and arguments in front of peers at the Langley Air Force Base, Va. legal center, June 14, 2012. These practice sessions are often referred to as “murder-boards,” and serve as training tools to prepare lawyers for trial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton/Released)
by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
6/18/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- Spend any amount of time walking through the halls of the Langley Air Force Base, Va. legal center and one would see wooden plaques adorning the walls, with the same phrase engraved on them, taken from the preamble of the Manual for Courts-Martial.
"The purpose of military law is to promote justice, to assist in maintaining good order and discipline in the armed forces, to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the military establishment, and thereby to strengthen the national security of the United States."
One of the plaques is directly across from the desk of Col. Calvin Anderson, 633rd Air Base Wing staff judge advocate.
"I keep that there to remind myself of why I do what I do," he said. "Even after all this time, I know I made the right decision, joining the JAG Corps."
Anderson, who began his Air Force career as a pilot, took advantage of the Funded Legal Education Program, and joined the Judge Advocate General's office. FLEP is a paid legal studies program open to active-duty Air Force officers. Selected participants, who must have between two and six years of active-duty service, receive their full pay, allowances and tuition, as they pursue a legal degree. Its counterpart, the Excess Leave Program, is an unpaid option for Air Force officers. ELP participants do not receive pay and allowances, but remain on active duty for retirement eligibility and benefits purposes. An ELP applicant must have between two and 10 years active-duty service, and must be either an O-3 or below on the first day they attend law school. Applications for both programs are being accepted from Jan. 1 to March 1, 2013.
"Our Air Force missions are constantly changing, and commanders deserve to have access to legal advisors with a broad background of military experiences," said Anderson. "The FLEP and ELP will ensure that we can continue to maintain a corps of officers whose military experience compliments their legal training, providing commanders with the highest caliber of legal support."
In addition to providing command with legal support, JAG officers also promote justice through a wide variety of applications which touch every aspect of the Air Force. They not only prosecute and defend clients during trial by courts martial, but they also help develop and acquire weapons systems, ensure the availability of the ranges and airspace needed to test the weapons, consult with commanders on system employment and assist them in the day-to-day running of the installation.
For Capt. Virginia Bare, her experience as a judge advocate for the 633rd ABW has been considerable and diverse - overshadowing the opportunities her civilian law school classmates have been offered.
"There are a lot of good experiences to be gained from the Air Force," she said. "We are afforded more variety with our cases and more client contact."
With such a vast array of experiences, Bare often finds herself speaking with interested law-school students and Air Force officers on the benefits associated with the JAG corps. Those benefits extend to Air Force officers who choose to apply for FLEP and ELP. They must complete all forms for the program they wish to use, take the Law School Admissions Test and attend an American Bar Association accredited law school. Additionally, applicants must interview with a staff judge advocate by Feb. 15, 2013, and provide a letter of conditional release from their current career field.
"Selection for both programs is very competitive," said Anderson. "Regardless, there is still a lot an officer can do to secure a position in one of the programs. Take control of the things you can control."
Once they graduate and are admitted to practice law in the highest court of any state, commonwealth or territory of the United States, candidates are eligible to be designated as judge advocates. Anderson encourages applicants to apply to these programs for the right reasons.
"I felt a calling that this is what I was supposed to do," he said. "I felt like I could help someone - like I could enable the mission."
Anderson said officers interested in applying should see the JAG corps as not caretakers of the word "no," but rather enablers of the word "yes." He said the JAG corps defends the Air Force's budget, people and mission - adding to the commander's capacity to buy and utilize air power.
"We are enablers," he said. "We find ways to make things happen for the commander. Instead of finding ways to say 'no,' we look for ways to say 'yes.'"
Applicants interested in enabling the mission and touching every aspect of the Air Force should prepare their package to meet a selection board, early March 2013. Selections are made based on a "whole-person concept." The total number of applicants selected for any academic year is based on the needs of the Air Force.
AFI 51-101, Judge Advocate Accession Program, Chapters 2 and 3, discuss the FLEP and ELP. For more information and application materials, visit http://www.airforce.com/jag, contact the Langley Law Office, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, at (757)764-3277, or contact Capt. Laura DeSio, firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) JAG-USAF.