FORT A.P. HILL, Va. – The annual Virginia National Guard Judge Advocate General’s Corps conference was held on March 7-8, 2015, at the Lodge on Fort A.P. Hill. Attendees included JAG officers and paralegals from units across the commonwealth, and retirees who volunteered to give classes and cook meals for the current JAG corps Soldiers.
“The Virginia National Guard JAG Corps has conducted an annual conference almost every year since the 1990’s,” said Col. Brent Johnson, the State JAG Officer. Only a few were canceled due to overseas deployments, he added.
The agenda for the Soldiers included briefings on Army legal ethics, Inspector General investigations, Contract Law, deployed operations law and other important topics. Classes were taught by both Virginia JAG officers and retirees. Between the classes, both the enlisted and commissioned Soldiers participated in individualized career progression counseling sessions with the senior leaders.
Not only does the convention promote camaraderie amongst the JAG Soldiers, but it also qualifies for Continuing Legal Education credits from the Virginia State Bar. Earning these credits are a yearly requirement and the conference is the perfect opportunity to fulfill the obligation at no cost to the Soldiers.
“The CLE is the best benefit because it counts towards both the Soldiers’ military and civilian jobs,” said Johnson.
The conference is also very beneficial as it comes at no cost to the state because it is completely funded by the JAG officers, said Johnson.
The JAG corps Soldiers also received a visit from Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.
“Any opportunity for me or any other senior leader to spend time with Soldiers and Airmen during training is tremendously important,” said Williams. “The service that our JAG community provides to all Soldiers and Airmen, as well as commanders is a key component to effective operations, and the training that was conducted ensures that they are the most effective they can be.”
“One of the biggest advantages of the convention is gathering every JAG Soldier in the state into one place,” said Sgt. Maj. Larry Breckenridge of the Fort Belvoir-based Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters Battalion, 29th Infantry Division. “It’s a great time for all of us to sit down together, meet face-to-face and get to know each other and to address any concerns or issues that the Soldiers may have.”
One Soldier attended the conference as her second official drill as a paralegal in the Virginia National Guard. Fresh out of Advanced Individual Training, Pfc. Kristen Byrd of Virginia Beach, Va., was excited to be at the conference.
“I felt like this was a good first drill [with the 29th Infantry Division] because it gave me a good chance to get to know everyone that I will be working with over the next six years,” said Byrd.
Another unique aspect of the JAG conference is the continuous attendance of Virginia National Guard JAG retirees.
“This year we had four retirees show up to the conference,” said Johnson. “They volunteered to do things like cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, and to teach classes for the CLE.
“This event keeps bringing retirees back – that’s how close the Virginia National Guard family is,” added Johnson.
Photos: JAG Soldiers hold annual conference