Legal Quandary

Monday, November 26, 2007

LQ Answers Your Questions!

...and proves she hasn't fallen off the face of the Earth.

A reader stumbled across some of my JAG thoughts and posted the following:

I have been in private practice now for 5+ years, but I am seriously considering applying for a JAG position. My only hold up is that I have a wife and 2 little girls...ages 5 and 19 months. Are there many "family" JAGs? If I decide to go this route, I am doing so with the intention of putting in my 20 years. My fear is dragging my children all over the country from one assignment to the next during that time. What is your experience with the relocation aspect of JAG service? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Good questions. First, there are lots of "family" JAGs. My office is about 50/50 as far as married/unmarried. Most of the marrieds have kids.

I don't have any personal experience moving as a JAG...yet. That said, I've PCS'd (Permanent Change of Station) once in my previous Active Duty life and three more times as a spouse. This in a span of just over 12 years, including one assignment that lasted only 13 months.

If you're thinking of going the JAG route, you're going to move around. In fact, you're probably going to move more often than a lot of other junior officers. I've heard rumors that they will start trying to keep first assignment JAGs on station for 3 years instead of the customary 2 years - but I haven't seen any evidence to suggest that this is actually happening. The reason our assignment cycles are different is that the JAG Corps is the only career field whose assignments are not centrally managed by the Air Force Personnel Center. Why? The UCMJ says JAG assignments have to be at the Judge Advocate General's discretion.

In a nutshell, if you go the JAG route, I would plan on moving every 2 years for the first 4 years you're in. This gives you a chance to see two different bases and get some good experience before you'll be looked at for promotion to Major. After that, you might be able to spend 3 years at a base for your next 2 assignments, but be aware that once you're promoted to Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel, you'll probably start moving more often again.

I have to admit that I sort of like moving around. (The actual moves always suck. Always.) I really enjoy having the chance to live in different places. We've lived in California, Seattle, Nebraska, Ohio, and Washington, DC. Each of those places has had very different things to offer our family and I can't imagine NOT having had those experiences. I'm hoping that our family will have the chance to live in Europe or some other part of the world. That said, my older child is definitely tired of moving and actually burst into tears when we told her we were leaving our last home. It didn't help that we found out we were leaving only 4 months after we'd gotten there...

Also, you should plan on deploying and/or a remote assignments. Deployments are ranging anywhere from 120 days to 1 year right now, and you'll almost definitely have the opportunity to deploy. (And yes, I do actually look at it as an opportunity. While there's obviously some danger involved, deployments expose you to all kinds of issues you'd never encounter in civilian practice or at home station.) A remote assignment is typically an assignment away from your family for over a year. Generally this means Korea, and usually they try to assign people who volunteer for these assignments. Why would someone do that, you ask. Well...sometimes single people try to do it early in their career to get it out of the way. Young married people will often do the same thing to get it done before they have kids. BUT sometimes even happily married people with families will volunteer because you usually get your choice of follow-on assignment. For example, let's say you're stationed in Japan and you really love it. Or maybe you're married to a Japanese national and your kids are in Japanese schools. Volunteering for a remote might get you another assignment in Japan (though almost definitely at a different base.)

A long answer to a fairly short question - but you can't say I didn't try to give a complete answer!