After a rigorous first year of law school classes I was looking forward to a change of pace and actually being able to experience the practice of law with supervision. Upon arriving at Naval Air Station Pensacola for my summer internship with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, I had no idea what to expect. When I applied for the internship, I thought that the Navy JAG Corps could be an appealing career, but I was not at all certain of it. Little did I know that my days would be filled with things like paddle-board PT, court martials, and watching the Blue Angels flying overhead.
My adventure began with a three-hour drive west from Tallahassee and setting up my air mattress in the room that I rented for the summer. I had left my husband and three-year-old daughter behind in Tallahassee, and was already missing them. When Monday morning came, I immediately found myself immersed in uniformed personnel and Navy culture. I was warmly greeted at the gate by an officer dressed in her khaki uniform and sporting an insignia that I did not recognize.
After locating the office where I would be working, I was assigned to a Captain (O-6) who was the Force Judge Advocate for the Naval Education and Training Command. He had been an attorney as well as a Naval and JAG officer for 28 years. While feeling a bit intimidated with only two semesters of law school under my belt, I also felt fortunate to have been placed with such an experienced officer.
My summer as a Navy JAG intern was amazing, but some of it is a bit of a blur. I quickly acclimated myself to the Manual for Court Martial (MCM), Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN), and the vast repository of Navy regulations called “Instructions.” I was then given my first substantive legal work which included reviewing Nonjudicial Punishment (NJP) and Administrative Separation (ADSEP) cases and providing recommendations for action. I also got to review JAGMAN investigations and draft endorsements, which were then sent to the Admiral for approval and signature.
I had the opportunity to observe an entire court martial proceeding starting from pre-trial motions through the final verdict and sentencing, while debriefing with the trial JAG officers daily. I even had the opportunity to review Navy policies and provide my recommendations for action which were intended to avoid any legal challenges in the future. To my surprise, my recommendations were taken seriously by my supervisor and forwarded up the chain of command.
I also experienced other aspects of JAG life unrelated to legal cases and procedures like physical training (PT). I was welcomed, and highly encouraged by my JAG colleagues, to join them for Command PT. I commend the JAG in charge of weekly Command PT for keeping it interesting. One week we were paddle-boarding, which was awesome, and another week we were sprinting through Mario Kart relays, which is not as much fun as it sounds. I was also invited to a spin class twice a week with my supervisor and that was the first time in my career that I have been asked to leave the office early to head to the gym with my boss. This balance of work and physical well-being was definitely one of my favorite parts of the internship.
At the end of the summer my externship supervisor at the College of Law asked me about the impact of my internship on my personal and professional goals. I cannot possibly emphasize enough the enormous impact that this internship had on me. From the newest JAGs to the so-called “last-tour” JAGs, who had served for nearly 30 years, I was welcomed into the Navy JAG Corps family with open arms by everyone with whom I worked. The legal work was interesting and challenging and all of my colleagues were open, engaging, and honest. By the end of the summer I was also speaking in Navy acronyms and knew what almost all of those insignia on the uniforms meant.
After returning to Tallahassee I applied to the Fall 2016 accessions board for a commission and have been selected for a professional recommendation. I sincerely hope to make the Navy JAG Corps my career following law school. Currently, I am in the process of working through the medical and security screening and hope to be commissioned (inactively) by this summer. If successful, I would remain on inactive status until I pass the Bar Exam, at which time I would be sent to Naval Justice School and then to my first duty location.
Valerie Chartier-Hogancamp, 2L