My life as a deployed JAG (so far)

Julius Blattner Gen JDI am now entering my second month here at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of the mobilization process for my deployment to the Middle East.  National Guard units that are federalized and deployed for overseas military operations are required to go through a mobilization and validation process before they leave. The units are required to go through this process for a number of reasons.

First, the majority of National Guard soldiers are part-time and train in their military occupation specialty one weekend a month and a couple weeks during the year, so the mobilization process allows additional training time. Second, deployed elements are comprised of units from numerous states, so it takes time for these units to learn to work with another. Third, the training we receive is specific to the type of operations we will conducting, which frequently changes and develops over time.

While here as a military attorney, I am primarily focusing my training and efforts on two aspects of military law. The first is military justice and the second is operational law.

Maryland National Guard soldiers are members of Maryland’s state militia and are subject to the Maryland Militia Code or state law. When these soldiers become activated for federal service, the state releases authority to the federal government and these soldiers are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which governs the conduct of federal soldiers and the military’s criminal justice system. As part of my training, I am becoming more familiar with the UCMJ and gaining experience in prosecuting soldiers for disciplinary matters. As a trial counsel attorney, I prosecute soldiers for misconduct, provide legal reviews for investigations and provide legal advice to commander’s on how to handle various disciplinary matters.

I am also gaining more experience in operational law, which governs how American soldiers conduct military operations. Operational law is comprised of various treaties, customary international law and U.S. policy. As an operational law attorney, I provide legal advice to commanders on the lawful use of force.  Operational law includes rules of engagement that govern the circumstances that authorize US forces to use force.  My primary responsibility as an operational law attorney is to ensure our military operations are complying with international law and U.S. policy by providing appropriate and timely legal advice to commanders.

I wake up at 4:15 a.m. each morning and go to bed around 10 p.m. each night. I work every day, so it is difficult to keep track of the days of the week. I live in a large room with approximately 50 other soldiers. I am provided a bed and a wall locker for all of my personal belongings and equipment. I live and work with the same people so we are with each other 24 hours a day. Could you imagine living and working with your co-workers every day with no break from each other? The environment forces us to work through our differences and focus on accomplishing our common goal or mission.

I plan to continue to share my experiences as a deployed National Guard JAG in the weeks and months to come.

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