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    Career: JAG Duty Enhances Career

    Mark Gundrum

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    Enhance your civilian legal career with service to your country in the Army Reserve Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 3, March 2005

    JAG Duty Enhances Career

    Enhance your civilian legal career with service to your country in the Army Reserve Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

    Mark GundrumMark Gundrum, U.W. 1995, is a captain and recruiting officer in the Army Reserve. He serves as the state representative for the 84th Assembly District and is in private practice with Hippenmeyer, Reilly, Moodie and Blum S.C., Waukesha.

    by Mark Gundrum

    After years of practicing law in the same job day-in and day-out, many attorneys feel the need for a career change. Perhaps all that is really needed, however, is a career enhancer. The Army Reserve's Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps may be the right enhancer for you.

    Like many other Army Reserve JAG Corps officers, I joined for one simple reason - I wanted to do my part to serve my country.

    Entering through the direct commission program, an attorney begins at the rank of first lieutenant. To become branch qualified for continued service, direct commissionees attend a three-and-a-half week Officer Basic Course at Fort Lee, Va., within the first year of service and take additional classes by correspondence at the soldier's convenience, as long as the classes are completed within the first two years of service.

    While every Army Reserve JAG Corp officer is 100 percent attorney and 100 percent soldier, an officer's time is fairly evenly divided throughout the year between soldier tasks and Army legal work. One month you could be at Fort McCoy, Wis., qualifying with an M-16 at the firing range; the next month you might be assisting soldiers in preparing wills and power of attorney documents and providing other legal assistance. In addition, there are opportunities to participate in administrative proceedings (akin to jury trials) to separate soldiers from the Army for serious misconduct (such as illegal drug use) or to defend soldiers against such separation actions. For example, in separation actions, a Reserve JAG serves as the Recorder (akin to a prosecutor) while a different Reserve JAG serves as defense counsel for the soldier being separated.

    You Get Out What You Put In

    Over the past few years, several soldiers in my unit have volunteered for unique opportunities in the Reserve. One soldier transferred into a Civil Affairs battalion and served in Iraq for more than a year, helping to restore order to towns and villages and assisting with preparations for Iraq's recently held national elections. Another soldier spent six months as judge advocate for the 1st Armored Division in Germany and then went to Iraq to serve as Chief of Claims for the 1st Armored Division in Iraq. In that capacity, he assisted Iraqis with getting military compensation if an Iraqi civilian was killed or injured, for example, or a farmer's field destroyed. Another soldier from my unit served at the Pentagon, helping to match judge advocates with appropriate deployment opportunities and helping to set up legal advisors to the Guatanamo Bay Commissions. All of these soldiers returned to their civilian jobs with broader and enhanced legal experience.

    Assisting fellow soldiers with legal issues is some of the most rewarding JAG legal work. While serving in Germany a few years back, I had the opportunity to assist a soldier who was trying to get his Korean-born daughter - whom he had adopted while serving overseas - legally into the United States. I also was able to provide legal assistance to a young soldier and his wife. The couple had been scammed to the tune of several thousand dollars by a door-to-door salesman who was on base illegally.

    In addition to the legal and personal development that service as a Reserve JAG can provide, the friends and professional contacts you meet can also enhance your career. Great opportunities exist for networking within our state, nation, and the world, whether in or beyond your own JAG unit. As a JAG you also become exposed to federal legal work that you might not otherwise experience, whether that be federal claims or criminal work or responding to public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Don't Have the Time?

    Who does? As a state representative, attorney in private practice, and father of five children age 7 and younger, I don't have the time either. But, like my Reserve colleagues, I make the time to do my part.

    In general, the Reserve mantra of "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" still holds true, though on occasion, this structure will change a little as military needs require.

    As with any endeavor, the more you put into the Reserve, the more you get out of it. The more time and heart you put in to serving, the better soldier and attorney you will be in the Reserve. At the same time, at least in my unit, a fair amount of flexibility exists to accommodate important civilian work and family commitments.

    Here to Serve

    Working on an active Army base for two weeks a year, a Reserve JAG officer will obtain broad legal experience in administrative, criminal, legal assistance, and claims work. Members of my unit have worked at bases in Germany, Italy, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico, as well as at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Lewis, Wash., among other locations.

    My unit trains in Madison on a monthly basis; unit members come from all over the state. While individual members or the unit as a whole could, like other Reserve soldiers or units, be called to active duty to serve within or outside of the United States, no one from my unit has yet been involuntarily called up for this purpose in the three-and-a-half years since Sept. 11, 2001.

    The satisfaction of serving the United States and assisting fellow soldiers with their legal needs is what keeps the Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps strong. If you are interested in learning more, please send an email and resumé to army mark.gundrum us mil us mark.gundrum army mil.