The United States Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps (originally “Department”) has been in existence for fewer than three-score-and-ten years, but the changes and challenges faced by officers serving in the Corps over just the past 15 years are far more numerous and decidedly more complex than everything that came before them.

With the onset of the Global War on Terror, the officers serving as JAGs were faced with issues unique to this new type of warfare. The use of drone strikes to reach terrorists in remote locations, for instance, has been a highly effective method of taking the war to our adversaries—but at the same time these strikes raise concerns and questions about collateral damage and target surety that, sooner or later, find their way onto the desks of JAG officers and eventually into courts-martial or civilian courts of law. These are not simply legal head-scratchers: how The Judge Advocate General’s Corps approaches these cases will have a direct, lasting impact on how Airmen in operational areas go about their duties.

As challenging as the life of an Air Force JAG can be, though, you can at least rest assured it’s not routine. Their practice places cases from every conceivable branch of law before them: international law, environmental law, civilian law (including civil actions), and of course military law. In keeping with the Constitution and the rights it affords those accused of crimes and civil infractions, the JAG Corps stands poised to defend Airmen in both litigations and administrative proceedings.

Because of the lure of major financial rewards associated with law practice in the civilian sector, the Air Force and its Personnel officers have created a variety of incentives to ensure the JAG Corps has the human resources available to meet the needs of both enlisted personnel and the service as an organization. A Direct Appointment program enables practicing attorneys to join the Air Force and be commissioned in an amazingly short period of time, while the Graduate Law Program allows students enrolled at an accredited school of law to complete their J.D. before entering the service. There is even an option that enables active-duty Airmen with the drive and skills become “legal eagles” while still serving in their current specialty.
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