Do JAG (Judge Advocate General) attorneys have to go through basic training? Yes---but it's not what you're thinking. Every JAG is a commissioned officer in his branch of service, but because most are recruited from law school, there is no expectation of prior service. There's no screaming drill sergeant or endless push-ups. Each JAG officer must complete some type of basic military training that is shorter and less intense than what enlisted soldiers, sailors and airmen go through. Think "college orientation" rather than "Full Metal Jacket" or "An Officer and a Gentleman." The Army, Air Force and Navy have different programs, because each branch has its own corps of JAG officers.
In the Navy, after a law student is accepted into the Navy JAG program, graduates law school and passes the bar exam, he moves on to Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island, where he learns a new role as a Naval officer. The school is 5 weeks long. After a short "military indoctrination," in which he learns military customs and courtesies and how to wear the uniform. the course is mostly academic. Classes are held on leadership, administration, Naval organization, military law, naval warfare and damage control. The physical conditioning program, meanwhile, requires new Navy JAGs to become familiar with the Navy's favorite place: the water.
When new Navy JAGs have finished Officer Development School they transition into the basic lawyer course, which is conveniently located at the Naval Justice School, just down the street from the Officer Development School. After 10 weeks, they move to their first duty station.
An Army JAG follows a similar path, although there are four phases rather than two and the training is a bit longer. Like the Navy, new Jags take a brief (12 days) military orientation course. There they learn customs and courtesies, how to wear their uniform and how to wake up early for physical training. Then they study military law for a month at the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Finally, they spend time away from their desks and go into the field to sharpen their soldiering skills by marching with a rucksack, shooting weapons and learning land navigation, among other things, at the Direct Commissioned Officers Course and the Basic Officer Leadership Course.
The Air Force
The Air Force requires all newly-minted JAG officers to spend a month at the Commissioned Officer Course (COT). According to the Air Force, "COT is intense, but nothing like basic training or boot camp. You'll be waking up at 5 a.m. and going to bed (lights out) by 10 p.m. The course is more like school, with an element of boot camp." After learning Air Force customs and courtesies, Air Force history, leadership and practicing drill and ceremony JAGs study military law at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The Air Force likes its comfort: "At each of these courses, you will live in the dormitories on base---akin to a nice hotel room."
What about the Marines?
Well, they fall under the Department of the Navy, so see Section 1.
The toughest part about being a JAG lawyer isn't facing down a drill sergeant--it's finishing law school. If you want to serve as a military lawyer, don't let the idea of "basic training" scare you off.
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