Saluting the Navy: more about JAGs (with Duke Law connections!)

One of our favorite activities here at Lawfire is to track the national security-related careers of those with a Duke Law connection. We’ve looked at former students students who are now military lawyers – called judge advocates or “JAGs” – in the Air Force, and here’s an update of several who are now Navy JAGs.

LT Troy Heisman actually is a University of North Carolina Law grad (Class of 2016) but took national security-related courses at Duke Law under the Interinstitutional program. He’s assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. Here’s Troy’s update (links added):

LTs Troy Heisman and Ric Stubbs, JAGC, USN

I am the legal advisor to commands and commanding officers [CO], meaning that COs will call me when trying to strategize the legal framework for complaints filed against them or people in their command, service member misconduct, admin, inspections, urinalysis, searches, etc. I also represent the US Navy in administrative separations and Boards of Inquiry when service members, both enlisted and officers are fighting to stay in the Navy. I also often get called to discuss options for Commanders when dealing with any issue they want a professional opinion on. 

My Duke experience was useful to me because it exposed me to the type of law that JAGs practice in the operational sense. Targeting, Rules of Engagement, Jus ad bellum and Jus in bello have been extremely helpful with regard to contributing to the operations team.

LT Ric Stubbs was in Duke Law’s Class of 2017, and he is also at Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Ric shares this with us (links added):

LT Stubbs with JAGs from nations participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018

I was doing the same job as Troy for 6 months, and then I was extremely fortunate to embark on the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard to advise the Commander of Amphibious Squadron FIVE for the 3-4 weeks of RIMPAC [Rim of the Pacific] 2018.  Unfortunately, the ship broke down after 4 days at sea, so we spent the remainder of the exercise pier-side, but the PHIBRON staff continued to direct the other ships in the squadron from there.  Also on board was the Commander of the 3rd Marine Regiment and his staff, as well as the Australian Commodore over all the amphibious forces.  I would have loved more at-sea time and a better view of the exercise operations, but I am deeply grateful I had a front-row seat to the interactions between these command staffs in their various planning processes and got to brief and advise on the rudimentary ROEs [Rules of Engagement] in place for the exercise. 

I was able to punch way above my weight in this position because of my familiarity with LOAC [Law of Armed Conflict] and Law of the Sea that I gained in your classes.  The Marine JA came right out of a trial shop and had to learn basic LOAC principles more or less on her own (the 10-week crash course we all get barely scratched the surface), where I was able to talk about differences between the U.S. interpretation of LOAC with the senior Australian Staff Judge Advocate.  I owe a great debt of gratitude to you, sir, and to the Duke program at large for preparing me to be here, serving in roles that very few get the chance to. 

Since the end of RIMPAC, I have been in legal assistance, advising clients on contract and landlord-tenant disputes, and helping them utilize the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act and guiding them through filing for amicable divorces. 

My family is loving being here.  My kids are now extremely spoiled with the great on-base beaches, and the military spouse community has welcomed Krista with open arms, allowing her to continue to pursue a degree as a full-time student online. 

LT Shannon Welch was also Duke Law Class of 2017, and is assigned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL. Here are Shannon’s reflections (links added):

LT Shannon Welch, JAGC, USN (center)

I am working my way through the first tour judge advocate program, including rotations in Legal Assistance, Trial, and Command Services. My experience has ranged from helping servicemembers assert their rights against sneaky landlords to opportunities to participate in multinational training exercises.

I would say my Duke Law Negotiations and Trial Practice classes have helped me immensely, as well as my clinical experiences. Any opportunity to get on my feet and actually learn to assert myself, argue articulately, and advocate. As a JAG I am thrown into many situations where I was the only lawyer in the room, and I need the confidence to delivery my opinions in a persuasive, succinct, and digestible way. Learning to communicate the law to non-lawyers, as I had to in the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, has helped me communicate with my clients and earn their trust.

We are very proud of these young people who are serving their country in uniform. BTW, info on Navy JAG is here, Air Force JAG is found here; Army JAG is found here; Marine Corps JAG is here; and Coast Guard JAG is here. I’d be remiss, however, if I failed to also mention the many opportunities for civilian lawyers who work for the Department of Defense (DoD). Counting full and part-time military and civilian lawyers, DoD has over 10,000 attorneys worldwide.

As we like to say on Lawfire®, gather the facts, consider the pros and cons, and decide for yourself!

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