Legal review

By Spc. Sarah Gossett, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Members of the Kentucky National Guard’s Judge Advocate General office gathered in Frankfort, Ky., Aug. 10 for their annual Military Law update. The judge advocates and paralegal specialists use the training to ensure their legal counsel and services remain accurate, reliable and relevant to the Kentucky Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Sarah Gossett)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky National Guard’s judge advocates and paralegal specialists across the state gathered at Boone National Guard Center for the JAG Corps’ Annual Military Law Update, Aug. 9-12, 2018.

The corps also uses this training opportunity to reeducate themselves on areas of operation that they may not come in contact with regularly, and to network with each other to share best practices, which is necessary with the constant rotation of assignments within the corps.

This training allows judge advocates and paralegals to ensure their legal counsel and services remain accurate, reliable and relevant to the roles and missions of senior staff, commanders, soldiers and airmen.

“Our annual military legal update provides a training opportunity to collectively discuss changes in law and regulation, determine the impact or potential impact upon operations and readiness, and explore what resources are necessary to competently respond to those modifications, as well as current and emerging areas of legal responsibility,” said Lt. Col. Natalie Lewellen, Staff Judge Advocate for the Kentucky National Guard. “Our particular role is to provide principled counsel and premier legal services in support of a ready, globally responsive and locally engaged Kentucky National Guard.”

Spc. Hailey Anderson, paralegal specialist at Joint Force Headquarters said that all of the JAGs are rarely together throughout the year, so this annual training acts as a refresher for the corps and a way to get integrated training on all of the updates and changed that have happened during the last year, or are happening soon.

“As a JAG, you always have to constantly refresh your knowledge,” said Anderson. “You’re always having to keep updated on laws and regulations in order to do your job and assist the commanders and Soldiers.”

While much of the time in JAG offices consists of assisting Soldiers with trial defense and separations, one of the main focuses is to ensure that commanders have thought of all possible avenues for a course of action, especially in the legal realm.

“Something that you are starting to see now in the news more often, in civilian and military organizations, is people violate ethical standards and protocols, maybe not knowingly or willfully, by making actions without the proper advice or counsel,” said Capt. Matthew Doyle, a current engineer officer who will soon be an active-duty JAG officer. “At the end of the day, you don’t know what you don’t know, so you don’t know that you’re out of azimuth when you are. That’s what is so unique about the JAG Corp. They are there to assist these brigade roles and ensure things are done right the first time.”

Additionally, Soldiers can talk to the JAG officer in their chain of command for legal advice in their own lives, military or civilian. Many JAG officers are practicing lawyers in the civilian sector, and while they may not be able to personally represent a Service member in civilian court, the network that the JAG Corp has built may provid them with the connections to find the best person to assist.