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US ARMY JAG Corps - Reserve Component...Too Good to Be True?

January 27, 2011 | Captain Earl Wilson

A prospective Judge Advocate read my last post and had a few questions regarding the JAG Corps Reserve Component and I thought it would be a good idea to share the nuts and bolts of my experience as a Judge Advocate/private practitioner in the Reserves.

**These are only my opinions and suggestions based off of my experiences.**

I joined the JAG Corps as a reservist because I wanted to use my professional skills to serve America and her troops in the midst of two wars.  I was knee deep in the adventure of private practice with some buddies from law school and basically wanted “to have my cake and eat it too.” So the Army Reserve was the logical way of accomplishing that goal. During the research phase, I was taken aback initially by the length of JAOBC (Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course). Back when I applied, June 2009, JAOBC was a 6 ½ month process but by the time I was headed to JAOBC it was condensed to about 4 ½ months give or take a week or so.  This was a long amount of time to be away from my civilian job but I said, “If I don’t answer the call now I never will.” So, I told my partners about my decision to serve and disclosed how long I would be away for training.

JAOBC was a blast! (I will spare you the details of what we did there because I assume you have already read my posts about the training…for those who haven’t, look up my past posts.)  After my return home and back to work, the flexibility of the Reserve Component was readily visible. I was previously scheduled for AT (Annual Training) duty at Ft. Sam Houston. For those of you who are not familiar with AT duty, it’s mandatory training that all Reservists must do every fiscal year. This is where the 2 weeks a year part of the “One weekend a month…Two weeks a year” mantra comes from.  The type of AT duty you’re able to get strongly depends on what’s available to your unit and the funds they have set aside for AT duty for that given FY (fiscal year). My AT duty at Ft. Sam was to obtain certification in Basic Army Combatives.  After completing my AT duty, everything was back to “normal” I would go to my civilian job daily and Battle Assembly (BA or drill) once a month (my unit drills on the first non-holiday weekend of the month as does most to knowledge).  This is exactly what the Reserve Component promises it’s soldiers, so trust me when they say “One weekend a month…2 weeks every year,” it’s the truth.

Initiative goes a long way in the military, especially the Army. The same holds true for the Reserve Component.  I was able to get tons of experience and training opportunities just by taking the initiative to volunteer for assignments that required me to work “off grid” (outside of the drill schedule).  For example, I was able to advise and draft a rebuttal on behalf of a Soldier found liable of a significant amount of property loss.  This task proved to be challenging but I received tons of experience from completing it. And yes, when this happens the Army has a way to ensure you are paid for your work: DA Form 1380.  Right now there are two Soldiers from my unit in Germany assisting with a Legal Assistance mission. One, a CPT, is mobilized while the other was just helping out for the weekend. In addition, to these situations I have received training outside of the legal field based solely on ambition and available funds. My point here is that the Reserve Component gives every JA the opportunity to serve his/her country within their capacity.  I have yet to be ordered or “volun-told” to do something (I’m not saying this does not happen, it just doesn’t happen often).  Therefore if you are looking to do your part while not breaking all ties to the “civilian life” then the RC is a good option. Also, there are tons of connections in the civilian world to be made in the RC. Most State Bar Associations have a Military Law section and most of its member are…you guessed it: Reserve Judge Advocates who can serve as mentors on both sides (Army and Civ) of the practice of law. Most importantly, the RC allowed me to meet 13 great people: 7 attorneys and 6 paralegals. I have gotten to know their families and will miss them when I transfer to the Regular Army. With that said, Reserve Component: Too Good to Be True? Nope, it is exactly what it says it is! Hope this helps anyone on the fence about the RC. Soldier First…Lawyer Always


10 Comments

  • Eric Erbaugh
    2/1/2011 11:06 PM
    Thank you for posting this. I was not selected for active duty but was selected for the reserves. I'm trying to weigh my options and deciede if I want to take the reserve position or just keep trying for active duty. I was looking for some good information on the benefits of JAG reserves. Thank you.
  • Joey JoJo
    2/27/2011 2:23 PM
    Hey LT: Did you have to do any AT prior to starting OBC? Thanks.
  • Brian
    7/25/2011 12:09 PM
    Lt. Wilson:
    I am considering applying for JAG NG in the next few months and would love to pick your brain about your the entire process. If you feel so inclined, I can be reached at bmcelroy5@yahoo.com.
    Either way thanks -- your blog was great. Brian
  • Will
    7/31/2011 8:37 PM
    I really enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you so much for writing it. I have accepted a commission into the JAG reserve and should be going to training in February. It was awesome to to read about what I'll be going through. Sounds pretty intense. I can't wait!
  • Scott
    4/18/2012 12:06 PM
    Sir,

    Great blog. Thank you for sharing your stories. How difficult was it for you to go from Reserve to Regular Army? Did you have to apply as if you were a civilian? How difficult is it to actually switch? Is it easy or does it happen in only limited circumstances?

    Thank you.

    Scott
    • CPT Earl Wilson
      4/18/2012 1:33 PM
      Scott:

      I've been m.i.a. from my blog as of late, however I have some insight on your questions as I applied for an active duty position and was fortunate enough to be selected by the Regular Army Accessions Board. With that said, I will update my blog this weekend in order to share my experience with you as well as others. Thanks for reading!
      • Scott
        4/18/2012 3:10 PM
        No problem. Thank you, Sir!
      • Scott
        4/25/2012 11:12 AM
        CPT Wilson,

        Would love to hear about your experience in transitioning Regular Army, and how difficult it is to do! Much thanks!

  • Chad
    9/23/2013 2:22 AM
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm a public sector (non-military) attorney interested in joining the army reserve JAG Corp. Is this possible to do without prior service?
  • Matthew Aquino
    3/25/2014 6:13 PM
    Capt Wilson,
    Hello sir, my name is Matthew Aquino. I am interested in pursuing JAG as an attorney with the US Army. I do however have one question. I may be colorblind, and I know that normal color vision is required for ROTC and OCS. Would color vision prevent me from pursuing JAG as an officer? I know there is a direct commission. Thank you very much for your time and considerations.

    Matthew Aquino

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