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How do I Become an Army Judge Advocate?

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  • Written By: John Markley
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2018
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The United States Army Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps is charged with the task of providing legal services to the Army and its personnel. Like the Army Medical Department and the Army Chaplain Corps, the Judge Advocate General's Corps gives direct commissions as an Army officer to professionals in the appropriate field. To become an Army Judge Advocate, the prospective recruit must have a law degree from a law school approved by the American Bar Association and must have been admitted to the bar of either the federal court system or the highest court of one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. An attorney who desires to become an Army Judge Advocate must also meet the mental and physical requirements to be a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, and must be under 42 years of age at the time he or she is commissioned.

Applications to become an Army Judge Advocate are submitted online to the Judge Advocate Recruiting Office. The prospective Judge Advocate must provide documentation of his or her academic record, legal qualifications, and professional experience. Each applicant must also undergo an interview with a JAG Corps Field Screening Officer (FSO). FSOs can be contacted directly to discuss the interviewing process, and most law schools are visited every fall and spring by an FSO who will interview applicants.

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Once the applicant is accepted to become an Army Judge Advocate, he or she must undergo three phases of training called the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course. The first phase is a brief orientation course at Fort Lee, Virginia that introduces the Judge Advocate to the basics of life in the military, including physical training and proper military courtesy. Next, the recruit spends 10 1/2 weeks in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School. There, the new Judge Advocate is instructed on the duties and organization of the Judge Advocate General's Corps and on military law. The third and final phase is the Direct Commissioned Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the Judge Advocate spends six weeks being instructed in physical fitness, leadership, and technical and combat skills.

Once commissioned, an active-duty Army Judge Advocate is committed to at least four years of service. Judge Advocates in the Army Reserve commit to eight years. Members of the JAG Corps have many potential roles, such as serving as a prosecutor or defense counsel at courts-martial, providing personal legal assistance to members of the military, advising other officers on legal issues, reviewing Army contracts with civilian contractors, giving advice during contract disputes, and representing the Army in civil cases.

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