May 01, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Military Trial Judge

By Colonel Linda Strite Murnane

I served my last 10 years of a 29.5-year military career as a military trial judge. A day in my life usually began with packing a suitcase. U.S. military trial judges are assigned through a system of circuits or centralized location, and are then sent to the base at which the case will be tried to preside over the trial.

Each week began a new adventure, beginning with a trip to the nearest commercial airport or to the nearest airlift terminal on a military installation. I certainly had some exciting travel opportunities. While assigned as the chief circuit military judge for Europe, for example, I supervised one other military judge. Between the two of us, we were responsible for presiding over the military trials of U.S. airmen assigned anywhere in Europe, Southwest Asia, and Northern Africa. Because of the dates of my assignment in that role, between 2000 and 2003, my fellow judge and I became responsible for the deployed trials for U.S. airmen assigned at operational bases supporting Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. For me, that meant trials at military sites in Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia during the conflict.

To catch a flight to get to the combat zones, I might find myself on a military transport plane or a commercial flight—but whatever flight I might get, it would be exciting. One of my deployed trial experiences occurred the week before my daughter was scheduled to graduate from college. I flew into the deployed location on a contract flight. The projected return flight was scheduled for a date that would have meant that I would miss getting home for her graduation.

Fortunately for me, there was a C-17 cargo flight leaving from the deployed location that would take me as far as Frankfurt, Germany, which is where I was to catch my commercial flight home for leave. It was a 17-hour flight, with cargo all around me. There were no reclining seats and no movie, and the only hot meal was the opportunity to heat up a frozen TV dinner in a microwave on board. It was a hot meal, though, and that was really a welcome treat. If I wanted to take a bit of a nap during the flight, I rolled out my gear and laid on the rollers on the floor. It wasn’t exactly first-class accommodations, but it got me to Frankfurt in time to catch the flight home—and being at my daughter’s graduation meant everything to me.

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