Nov 09, 2010 Katie Gleitsman Uncategorized
Some people might remember “JAG” as a TV show with a swashbuckling military lawyer.
But the audience at the Cazenovia Forum got to hear about the real JAG at its most recent event. Lieutenant Colonel James McKee spoke to the Forum at the Catherine Cummings Theater on Friday Oct. 22, telling them about the unique role of the organization in the U.S. Army. McKee is the director of the Future Concepts Directorette at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Va.
The JAG corps is at the forefront of major legal issues involving the Army, including the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays serving openly in the military, the detainees being held in the prison at Guantanamo, and the abuse of prisoners who were held by the Army at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“Basically what my team does is we think about future policy of the JAG Corps., future doctrine of the JAG Corps., what the future composition of legal teams should look like for the judge advocates and the paralegals,” he said. “We work with our counterparts in the training part … and also combat development.”
Colonel McKee provides senior army JAG leadership with a analytical ability that serves to inform future policy decisions relating to the composition and function of the JAG Corps.
But in addition to the matters related to war and diplomacy, JAG has a much more mundane function. It’s the oldest law firm in the country, and it serves as the primary source for soldiers to go to for many of their legal needs. McKee said JAG takes care of things such as taxes, wills, landlord disputes, even divorce.
“After six, eight, nine months, there’s a lot of divorce in the army,” McKee said. “We saw 40 divorce clients in 60 days. We do a lot of separation agreements, we do a lot of child support and custody actions, and there’s a heavy toll on soldiers, and that’s something that you have to kind of do. You have to help them work through those issues.”
McKee said there are approximately 1.2 million soldiers in active duty over the five armed forces in the country, and the JAG Legal Center & School helps all of them.
McKee knows firsthand about long deployments. During his 17 year Army career, he has served two tours in Iraq, and has been deployed to multiple locations such as Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Turkey.
McKee said JAG has about 1200 lawyers in the army alone, plus 1500 civilian attorneys, 800 paralegals, and 100 court reporters. It’s an entire justice system.
“Military justice is basically good order and discipline,” he said. “That’s where we court martial or give Article 15s to soldiers. A lot of countries, they take their soldiers and put them through the civilian courts. In the US Army, we don’t do that. What we do is we put them through the military court systems, we have our court of appeals, and then we have several courts of appeals, but our last court of appeals has civilians and military members on it.”
The next speaker at the Cazenovia Forum is Peter Bergen, a national security analyst for CNN, well-known author, and one of the only western reporters to interview Osama Bin Laden. The event will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Catherine Cummings Theatre.
Katie Gleitsmann is a junior at Utica College. She is a journalism major.