How did you first get involved with the military and what attracted and motivated you to join? Could you share some of your experiences?
I met my husband Alan on my orientation day of law school in New York. He was a 3L student, and we got married at the end of my 2L year. When he graduated, he owed the Army four years of service to fulfill the terms of his ROTC scholarship, but he planned to serve longer because he enjoyed the legal issues and the opportunities the JAG Corps presented. I finished law school, had a judicial clerkship, and then worked for a labor law firm in Maryland, where Alan was then assigned. Ironically, my firm represented a hotel very close to the ABA's Washington, DC office, so I like to think of my career as having come full circle in that regard. When Alan was reassigned to Arizona, I decided to join the Army as a Judge Advocate rather than taking another state bar exam. He was enjoying his Army career and I have never regretted the decision to join him.
My first job was as a prosecutor in Arizona followed by another prosecution job in Korea. My cases included murder, rape, theft, drug offenses and many other crimes similar to those seen in the civilian criminal courts. I also worked on labor law and ethics issues Early in my career, I tried to get assignments that allowed me to develop experience that kept me competitive in the civilian legal market in case I got out.
The military community is just a smaller community of what the general public sees, but the difference is that the military justice system has to be flexible and able to respond quickly to allegations of misconduct and accommodate the expeditionary nature of the military. Two to three-year criminal trials could be disruptive to good order and discipline in the units and interfere with accomplishment of the military's mission. For example, one of my premeditated murder cases in Korea took less than six months to get to trial after the victim was discovered. Criminal investigators investigated the crime, identified the suspect who had returned to the United States, brought him back to Korea, processed the forensic evidence in Japan, and we tried and convicted the perpetrator by the end of the sixth month. I also worked at the State Department for two years wearing civilian clothes and providing litigation support for a case in the Hague between the United States and another country—complex civil litigation, document finding, writing pleadings, responding to foreign pleadings, and submitting legal documents on strict deadlines—all skills I could take to the civilian sector.
At the 16-year mark, I really appreciated being a judge advocate and started taking jobs with an "I might as well stay 'til 20-years" mentality. I was offered a supervisory attorney role in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and later I was the head lawyer in a combat division in Baghdad during the surge. I cannot think of an assignment I did not enjoy in the Army, although I admit there are a couple I might not want to repeat.