Remembering TCPaul, 2016-2019

JAG Attorneys

It's been a while since there's been any posts on this forum girlfromtheprairie03/20/18
Congrats! Are you doing Active Duty or Reserves? Also, ho newjag1703/20/18
Could you share anything about your background or relevant e trijocker03/20/18
Hey! I'm actually with a major DA's Office and had always newjag1703/22/18
Wow, sorry to hear you couldn't get the vision waiver. The wutwutwut03/22/18
Thanks--yeah I knew going in that I was going to need a waiv newjag1703/23/18
I was enlisted Army a long time ago. The issue with needi wutwutwut03/24/18
Current AF JAG here. Willing to answer questions. plunky03/20/18
Hey Plunky: —Could you discuss the pros/cons of being a newjag1703/21/18
I could write a ton in response to these questions, but here plunky03/21/18
Hey Plunky: Do you have a generic email off here I could newjag1704/23/18
This should work: [email protected] plunky04/23/18
Thanks!! haha I like it. newjag1704/30/18
Hey Plunky: —Could you discuss the pros/cons of being a newjag1703/21/18
I was an Army Reserve JAG for 11 yrs. Reserve JAG life was porochi03/22/18
Plunky-- Thanks for all of that! I think one of the hardest girlfromtheprairie03/22/18
For COT, it helps if you can get on a base and get your unif plunky03/22/18
Plunky: Seriously, thank you so much for your info/insigh dilemma201803/22/18
dilemma, Do you have a spouse and/or children? If so, I plunky03/22/18
Yeah, there were always opportunities to go "active" for sho porochi03/23/18
I served as a Marine Judge Advocate and am happy to answer q rayjudicata03/22/18
Plunky: How long do most JAGs stay in? Seems like very fe newjag1703/24/18
I wouldn't say very few in the AF go to 20, but I don't have plunky03/24/18
So interesting all around, Plunky! Curious—what areas/ass newjag1703/26/18
The traditional idea for assignments during your first 4 yea plunky03/26/18
I am in a similar status as plunky... AF JAG with 4-6 years masterpoaster03/27/18
No arguments with plucky's advice, but I'd heed what masterp toooldtocare04/03/18
Thank you both for such detailed responses! So heres a quest newjag1703/28/18
My descriptions below are based on conversations with JAGs f plunky03/28/18
Haha thanks Plunky: Your descriptions are pretty consistent newjag1703/29/18
Random questions since Ive never been on a base: —What newjag1704/03/18
Nothing really crazy about our offices. I think we used to plunky04/03/18
I meant to ask also what you meant by the Navy Jag culture a newjag1704/03/18
Certainly I was joking, and it just comes from my limited ex plunky04/03/18
Haha—yeah when I interviewed for Army JAG, it was actually newjag1704/04/18
Hey Plunky! Quick question--do you know of any JAGS who w newjag1705/22/18
newjag, I haven't known too many, no. "Space Law" sounds li plunky05/23/18
Hey Plunky! Hope all is well--I had originally been denie newjag1709/11/18
Sounds promising! plunky09/11/18
Can someone help me do we submit accession forms electronic maebe05/23/18
Looking to get some feedback on my chances for a JAG positio 80douche06/15/18
@80douche Obviously, all branches love prior enlisted app girlfromtheprairie06/26/18
GirlfromthePrairie: Wanted to ask how your JAG training w newjag1709/10/18

girlfromtheprairie (Mar 20, 2018 - 1:50 pm)

It's been a while since there's been any posts on this forum about JAG.

I got accepted in AF JAG back in December 2017 and go to COT in May. Looking for anybody else currently in JAG or awaiting assignment.

newjag17 (Mar 20, 2018 - 3:47 pm)


Are you doing Active Duty or Reserves? Also, how did you come to pick AF over other branches?

trijocker (Mar 20, 2018 - 4:59 pm)

Could you share anything about your background or relevant experience?
I have had a few people ask me about JAG, but I don't know anything about it or anyone in it.

newjag17 (Mar 22, 2018 - 8:34 pm)


I'm actually with a major DA's Office and had always been interested in JAG, however, I wasn't looking to go Active with my current career/life-- so I went through the entire process (which I documented on here in a different thread) to join the Reserves.

It was such a lengthy process, but I got accepted last Feb., then went though all the physical, medical, etc and was 99.9% of the way there when my vision waiver was denied (I have 20/20 corrected with contacts but am blind as a bat uncorrected =). JAG was super supportive since it was the Human Resources Command Surgeon than makes those decisions--the head of JAG recruiting (a Colonel) called me personally which I was though was super classy. Disappointing yes, but I am so glad I tried and was honored to have been accepted by JAG.

I think it's awesome you want to work with victims of DV, sexual assault etc--had I gotten in, I would certainly have gravitated to some of that work as well since it mirrors what I see on a daily basis.

wutwutwut (Mar 22, 2018 - 11:29 pm)

Wow, sorry to hear you couldn't get the vision waiver. The cutoff was always -8 dioptres in the reg, but I saw waivers as high as -10.

newjag17 (Mar 23, 2018 - 6:51 pm)

Thanks--yeah I knew going in that I was going to need a waiver. My diopters (never even thought about that word until I applied for JAG) was around -9.5--what really surprised me was that I figured that having corrected vision near perfect 20/20 would be sufficient, however, JAG themselves told me that waivers are completely unpredictable.
When were you in?

wutwutwut (Mar 24, 2018 - 10:14 am)

I was enlisted Army a long time ago.

The issue with needing a high minus corrective power isn't about ability to correct, it's that it's a proxy for eye length (cornea to retina).

The more negative a person is over -8 the more likely a person is to suffer detached retina, even from a minor head blow or even for no reason at all, because the eye so elongated has a steeper curvature in the back where the retina attaches, and more retinal stretching.

Still like I said, I'd seen people going for office type positions (i.e. non combat) get them up to -10.

Maybe it's because Reserve v. AD, not sure. But with your resume, I'd say to contact your Senator's office and see if they can make a reco on getting the waiver. That kind of interference/pressure used to work.

Edit: especially if one of your Senators is long-serving or on a committee related to military or Intel affairs. If both of your Senators are basically noobs try a Representative with a lot of pull.

plunky (Mar 20, 2018 - 7:30 pm)

Current AF JAG here. Willing to answer questions.

newjag17 (Mar 21, 2018 - 2:49 pm)

Hey Plunky:

—Could you discuss the pros/cons of being a JAG?

—How long have you been in and how long are you planning to stay?

—Plans after JAG?

—Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a prospective JAG?

plunky (Mar 21, 2018 - 8:46 pm)

I could write a ton in response to these questions, but here are some quick thoughts.

Pros: Actually having a mission, something larger than yourself to work for. The people are on average really good for the lawyer community. If you like the courtroom, you can get a lot of it (and quickly). Each branch uses their JAGs differently, but the Air Force trains you in many different areas your first few years. I think we're one of the best training grounds for federal civilian attorney positions out there. Moving around and changing jobs every 2-3 years can be a pro or a con (partially depending on where you get to go). Never having to think about what to wear. Your work-life balance will change dramatically from job to job, but overall, we have decent hours and decent pay. I have not found a better job for PSLF than the military, considering we get several grand a month that doesn't count as income.

Cons: Cons include the other side of the coin of many of the things above. It is very frustrating to run into people who are more concerned about themselves than the mission, even to the point of just acting like really bad humans. Moving so often can wreak havoc on kids, I'm sure (I don't have any), but it's also tough for a spouse/significant other who wants a career. I think we waste a lot of resources on prosecuting cases (mostly drugs & sex) that shouldn't go forward. I could write books on that part of it.

Tenure: I've been in between 4 and 6 years. Unless I have no choice financially, this is my last assignment on active duty. Moving the spouse so often isn't working out, and I'm tired of some of the cons. I also want to do more to help other people, and I don't think that jives with this for me right now. I can't NOT do the Reserves, I think - they are such a good deal and would still let me do some of the things I enjoyed about the job.

Plans after JAG: Actively working through this. Probably going to stay in the secondary market where I'm living, so that greatly limits the choices. Otherwise I would focus almost solely on federal civilian attorney positions. Much of it comes down to timing if I'm staying put, however. I'd prefer a federal gig, but I am looking at other options. It's actually an interesting process to figure out what I could (and would) do.

Advice to prospective JAG: For anyone already selected, go into it with the most positive attitude possible. Probably most importantly, stay ethical. Figure out what you would be willing to lose your career over, because those choices might come. I think the different JAG Corps' biggest failures have been when people start looking over their shoulders worried about their careers and not doing what is clearly the right thing. I can point to examples within the past week.

Advice to people considering JAG: Find out as much as you can about the job. Make sure it's what you want to do, because if you don't like it, it can really suck, since you can't just walk away. Beyond that, know what you're getting into, because it will help with getting selected. I can likely write a lot on how to get selected, but the thread at TLS is the best place to start.

I'm not sure if this addresses your questions or not. I'm a relatively open book, so ask away if you want more detail on something.

newjag17 (Apr 23, 2018 - 6:30 pm)

Hey Plunky:

Do you have a generic email off here I could correspond with you if I think up more questions etc--didn't want you giving out your military email address of course.

plunky (Apr 23, 2018 - 8:24 pm)

This should work:

[email protected]

newjag17 (Apr 30, 2018 - 7:22 pm)

Thanks!! haha I like it.

newjag17 (Mar 21, 2018 - 2:49 pm)

Hey Plunky:

—Could you discuss the pros/cons of being a JAG?

—How long have you been in and how long are you planning to stay?

—Plans after JAG?

—Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a prospective JAG?

porochi (Mar 22, 2018 - 12:19 am)

I was an Army Reserve JAG for 11 yrs. Reserve JAG life was kind of lame, but really, what exactly can you do effectively as an Army lawyer one weekend a month? You can't do Court Martials, they don't do them on weekends, and for complicated reasons, at least in the Army, UCMJ jurisdiction is limited for Reservists, in other words, you gotta be on Active duty to handle a Courts Martial.

I mainly did legal assistance work for Reserve and some active units. I was frequently put on "orders" for active duty for short stints, mainly to handle administrative separation boards. That's about as close to doing a Courts Martial as you'll get during Reserve duty. But to get to experience the full gamut of the JAG experience one really needed to mobilize for a year or more and go "active." Many did, but for me, with a solid civilian legal career that paid more than Active duty JAG, it really wasn't a good option. I finally got out after having spent my umpteenth drill weekend giving legal advice to yet another Private Snuffy who wanted a divorce. Wash and repeat. All in all, Reserve JAG work was a lot like being a Legal Assistance atty., but with cool uniforms and once a year we got to go to the Range to shoot M-16's and M-9's. And I did get to drive a Humvee around some, even in the occasional convoy. That was kind of cool. Other than that, go active duty if you really want to know what being a JAG is all about.

girlfromtheprairie (Mar 22, 2018 - 2:57 pm)

Plunky-- Thanks for all of that! I think one of the hardest parts of this process is just the idea of hurrying up to wait with everything in this process. I'm currently working in legal aid, so I have a high case load, frequent trials, tight deadlines. Any suggestions for COT?

newjag17-- Thanks! I'm going Active Duty. I only applied to AF JAG for a few reasons. One of the biggest being that the AF has taken the lead on prosecuting sex crimes (something I do in my civilian life and find alot of interest in) and wants to expand services to do more domestic violence related work (also something I do in civilian life). The AF was also more friendly to my current family situation, and I had much better interactions with recruiters in the AF. What about you?!

trijocker-- My background in public interest/government/legal aid work both before law school, during, and after. Currently working alongside prosecutors, so doing a lot of trial experience.

plunky (Mar 22, 2018 - 6:11 pm)

For COT, it helps if you can get on a base and get your uniforms squared away (including tailoring) before you go. It's not always feasible, but you can do it in a much more relaxing environment, take your time, and get things fitted right. It will also save you a lot of stress on your first day.

Research what you can bring as much as possible. You'll be given a list, but talking to people who have gone very recently will be a big help. They change rules from class to class, so my experience from several years ago might not be that helpful. It helped that a couple of us in our flight brought printers, for example, since printing sucked at COT. It might be better now; I don't know.

They are going to try to make you believe that you have to work 28 hours a day to get everything done. Most people stay up past midnight and get up at 0400. Part of the training is for you to figure out how to manage your schedule. Working with your flight is huge of course, but learn to prioritize and learn to accept "good enough." For example, you might have to write a memo for some Air Force purpose as homework. The problem lawyers run into is we think we have to masterfully craft something good enough to submit as a SCOTUS brief. That's overkill. If they ask for A, B, and C, give them A, B, and C, and forget the rest of the alphabet. Along the same lines, never volunteer for anything and try to avoid being the person in charge of your flight - their life will suck no matter what.

Be ready for the PT test. It blows my mind, but JAGs are getting sent back for failing PT tests. You have been applying/interviewing/prepping for a year or more; this shouldn't be a surprise. It's also part of how they select DG honors, so if you're thin, it's worth trying to do well on the PT test.

I enjoyed COT, but I had a good (read: underachieving) flight. And the desserts in the DFAC are surprisingly good.

dilemma2018 (Mar 22, 2018 - 8:22 pm)


Seriously, thank you so much for your info/insight--so here's my question (hence my screename).

I'm currently a senior DA at a large DA's Office (have both supervisory and litigation responsibility), make six figures, and have a house plus do some teaching on the side.

JAG was always something that appealed to me--essentially coming out of law school, the only two paths I was interested in pursuing was my current one and JAG. The reason I did not originally do JAG was pretty much that I was not interested in moving around a lot geographically. Although I really enjoy my current life/career situation and definitely feel Blessed, I was curious as to your thoughts on how much I am truly missing out on by not pursuing JAG although pursuing Active would certainly uproot everything I have going on here. I know it is a completely personal and individual choice, however, I don't personally know any Active Duty JAGs to have this conversation with so would love to hear your thoughts and insights from someone who is doing it and is willing to share. Obviously, it would be totally different scenario if I had just graduated, etc--but this would literally be completely dismantling what I'm doing for it.

Any other posters I would love to hear from too (Porochi I know you and I exchanged a few posts on here so thank you as always)


plunky (Mar 22, 2018 - 11:21 pm)


Do you have a spouse and/or children? If so, I definitely would not suggest active duty.
If you're single, then maaaaaayyyybe.

Let's see, things you'd miss out on? It would give you the chance to try a lot of different areas of law. If you want to stay in the courtroom, you'd have to go to the defense side at about 2-4 years in, which I think is great experience for anyone who wants to try cases (on either side) and is a great growing experience for a lot of attorneys. My experience deploying was phenomenal, but I had a great location and an even better boss. There would be the positive part of moving around - you would get to experience a lot of different places, but understand that could involve 2 years in Alamogordo, New Mexico, or some other godforsaken location as well.

While I believe people can significantly control the assignments they get in the Air Force, understand that sometimes things fall through and you don't get what you want. Maybe you don't get on the litigation track for some reason. I think that uncertainty would be a big risk for someone who knows they want to litigate and has a long-term job tha gets them in the courtroom.

Also understand that most of the cases you would be prosecuting your first few years would be drug (simple use, mostly) and sex cases. I don't know if it's improved in the last year or so, but we've had about a 33% conviction rate in sex assault cases, and that doesn't count the ones getting overturned on appeal now. If you're a senior DA, I imagine you're only taking cases to trial that are important and/or where the evidence is solid.

If you really want to do something with one of the branches, you would be a good candidate for the Reserves. In the Air Force, they really look for trial experience for anyone going into the Reserves without having been Active Duty first. The Reserves would at least give you a taste of things, and you could look at switching over or doing extended tours if you really liked it. I know we could use your experience as a real trial attorney.

porochi's experience above is a possible outcome in the Reserves, but most of my friends in the Reserves seem to have enough control over their careers to avoid that fate. You can fill in for short tours (3 months, plus or minus) in places all over the world. There's also the IMA option, where you're used like a substitute teacher, and that can be fun depending on the office you're attached to. Deployment is also an option if you're interested.

I don't know if that helps or not. Ask anything else you want to know. I'm also willing to email/chat separately from here if that's easier.

porochi (Mar 23, 2018 - 10:53 pm)

Yeah, there were always opportunities to go "active" for short stints when I was an Army Reserve JAG. Often I'd do an AT or ADT tour to serve as Recorder (prosecutor) or Legal Advisor in administrative separation boards (discharging service member for various types of misconduct). Other times I'd fill in at Army posts in their JAG shop, but usually they'd park me in Legal Assistance doing estate planning or advising Private Snuffy about getting a divorce. A reservist can't usually swoop in and start doing Court Martials, Claims, etc. unless they're mobilized for long tours. In the Army, 2003-2013 when I was a Reservist, mobilizations were for 12-15 months, sometimes longer. No 3 mo. tours like Air Force reserves.

But I found lots of opportunities to work in a JAG shop doing Legal Assistance for a couple of weeks or more. The local Army post near where I lived often hit me up to fill in in at their Legal Assistance shop, they were always short handed and I lived nearby, I became their frequent substitute JA. But they never brought me on to do anything more than that. But then again, I didn't want to do more than a 2 or three weeks at a pop, my civilian job was too demanding, it was very hard to do even the limited AT or ADT.

Board tours were usually for a week or less, I'd do 2 or 3, sometimes more, during that time. But Reserve JAG was pretty limited as far as military legal experience. Go active if you want to experience the full monty, or if you go reserves, look for opportunities to mobilize long term. Otherwise you'll probably end up in Legal Assistance purgatory.

rayjudicata (Mar 22, 2018 - 10:46 pm)

I served as a Marine Judge Advocate and am happy to answer questions.

newjag17 (Mar 24, 2018 - 2:56 pm)


How long do most JAGs stay in? Seems like very few go 20? Why is that?

plunky (Mar 24, 2018 - 8:47 pm)

I wouldn't say very few in the AF go to 20, but I don't have any hard retention numbers. I could check our force composition to see how many Majs, Lt Cols, and Cols we have. That might give a decent idea.

There's a small group that gets right out at 4 years (as soon as they possibly can), but I think many/most get out between 4-8 years, and then a group at 10 years. Part of the reason is the blood money - at the end of 4, you can take $20k to stay to 6, and then at 6 you can take $40k to stay to 10. Other things affect the timeline, like agreeing to the extra service commitment to pick up an LLM or to transfer the GI Bill.

The most important factor in getting out is marketability and wanting to focus on something else. For most people, it takes a little longer than 4 years to build up the set of skills they're looking for, and somewhere around the 6-8 point makes you really marketable without being too senior. So the oppotunities increase during the 4-10 year range. After the 8-10 year mark, people will start to float into more managerial/administrative type jobs, so a lot of people want to bail then because they don't want to do those jobs, and those jobs don't increase their marketability (for most jobs oustide the AF).

Certainly family situations affect these decisions. A couple of moves can put you at the 6 year mark, and it might take moving a couple of times for a family to decide it's not for them. A move to North Dakota might hasten that.

I would think some people also start looking down the line at what they would do after they retire after 20-30 years in. The transition to the next job for people who've been managing attorneys for the past 10 years and not doing as much hands-on work is more challenging than a lot of people think. Getting out earlier and preserving a retirement in the Reserves while working your way up at another agency is a solid option for a lot of people.

I have heard and I feel that we have more retention issues than we had in the past, but I don't know for sure. Some of the higher-ups were shocked when people were leaving active duty recently and actually hated active duty life, because it used to be a lot different. Things changed a lot starting around 2012, between the sexual assault beast and reductions in force.

newjag17 (Mar 26, 2018 - 10:34 am)

So interesting all around, Plunky!
Curious—what areas/assignments are the most coveted? Least?

plunky (Mar 26, 2018 - 8:24 pm)

The traditional idea for assignments during your first 4 years is that you would spend 2 years at one base legal office then 2 years at another base legal office. This would give you (ideally) a variety of work and expose you to different missions, while also not screwing you too hard if you get a bad location. This model has changed a bit, where we have more JAGs going to a specialized job in their second assignment such as an Area Defense Counsel or Special Victims Counsel role.

For assignments, desirability is a function of location and job, with each changing based on one's personal tastes and goals. Many overseas locations are popular - any base in Germany, England, Norway, or Italy, and then our Japanese bases. CONUS, you probably have the DC bases, McChord near Seattle, a base or two in California, and then several of the bases on the beaches of Florida. Hickam in Hawaii isn't quite as popular as you might think, but no one blames you for going there, certainly. Hanscom in the Boston area is prized by those who like civilization. Elmendorf in Anchorage is relatively popular as well.

From a job perspective, early on, most people who don't abhor the courtroom will want to get picked up for an Area Defense Counsel gig, as it's the only route to the litigation "track," and people believe it looks good for promotion later. Personally, it was a chance to fight The Man, and it was an amazing job. Special Victims Counsel . . . I need to be careful with what I say here, but, in general, they are not coveted positions.

Those who love the courtroom will try to stay on as Senior Trial or Senior Defense Counsel, along with stints at Appellate Defense or Appellate Government. The appellate jobs are pretty competitive. You have to be good to be an STC or SDC, but sometimes those slots are difficult to fill, because people get sick of all the travel. One thing I really like is the ability to bounce back and forth between defense and prosecution. Certainly getting a judge assignment is coveted for those who think they're Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Outside of the litigation track, hmm. Any job teaching at the Air Force Academy is extremely competitive - I think there are upwards of 50 applications for 1 position. There are specialized positions in contracts, environmental, labor, medical, civil litigation, ops, and other areas of the law, but they're all attainable if you set yourself up for those jobs. A lot of people want to pick up their LLM (in a variety of subjects), but, overall, it's not a bloodbath to get one. Getting a specific one - like the one person we send to Columbia for an International Law LLM each year - might be more challenging.

After some of the specialized positions, a lot of jobs are coveted for their ability to help you make rank. As a Major, you'll want to check off being a Deputy Staff Judge Advocate at a large base, so the DSJA gigs at larger bases in non-awful locations are likely competitive. Same with actual SJA gigs as a Lt Col - people need to check that off to have a shot at Col.

There are a few assignments at the Major level that are a bid different yet competitive - school slots for Air Command & Staff College, the legislative fellowship, whatever program it is that lets us go to Australia, etc.

One thing I like about the Air Force is that if you work hard and are good at what you do, you can shape your future quite a bit, and there are a lot of options.

masterpoaster (Mar 27, 2018 - 9:44 pm)

I am in a similar status as plunky... AF JAG with 4-6 years in. I feel funny writing this because if you'd asked me at any previous point during my JAG stint whether to do it, I would have said to run like hell in the opposite direction. That's still probably my advice for anyone who actually has options.

I would not recommend it for anyone who already has a family and especially kids, although you will meet a lot of family types who say it's a great lifestyle for the family. It depends on what floats your boat--the medical benefits and ability for a spouse to SAHM are ample and a lot of people do that. Lots of people who thrive here are very traditionally-minded (not always religious but often) with 4-8 kids making the most out of federal benefits. Lots of others come from a military background themselves and it's perfectly normal for them to live a rootless, itinerant life carting around your immediate family. I know several JAG families where the parents are also carted around with them to serve as daycare or are just military retirees themselves looking to follow the grandkids. Which is great if that's your bag. If you are joining with no real military connection and your entire family is "back home" and not used to the military lifestyle, it can be isolating.

I have a laundry list gripes about it and hated the first four years (base legal years). Now that I am out of that environment life is better, but if you stay in for 20+ you may end up spending close to half your career in the base legal environment. That's pretty much a deal killer for me. There are a few paths I can see to staying in at least until 10 years if I get a lucky break with assignments, continuation pay (the "blood money" referred to above), and PSLF forgiveness which would all sort of hit at the same time. There are other ways to get PSLF, though. I would stay in the reserves if I get out because it's all of the fun with none of the drudgery.

What's keeping and has kept me in the job thus far is inertia and uncertainty about my prospects on the outside. Trying to specialize now to get some transferable skills. Generally you will be completely useless and learn nothing transferable outside of AF channels during your first couple assignments and it really depends on how you "sell" yourself to have a fighting chance at a good job outside. Most people land somewhere in the government.

As has been alluded to earlier, the pay and benefits are nothing to sneeze at. If you are young, single, and adventurous, I would give it a try. I would look before you leap if your situation is anything else. If it is your only job option, then go for it...though with today's selection numbers I have a feeling that anyone getting picked up likely has other options.

toooldtocare (Apr 3, 2018 - 7:16 pm)

No arguments with plucky's advice, but I'd heed what masterpoaster has to say. I was in JAG, pretty much only did trial work(base office for 9 months, then ADC, then TC), and moved three times in four years. I was single, no big deal, but that would get pretty old with a family. And it used to be-maybe it's changed-that as you get into the middle years and are viewed as a star, the likelihood of getting moved at short notice increases, and even if the move isn't on short notice, you'll be in jobs 2, maybe three years max. This is viewed as a compliment to your skills and makes you all the more promotable, but be prepared. And again, you'll need an understanding spouse, because when I was TC, I was traveling 3 weeks a month, and had some months when almost every day was on the road-and I was in that job 26 months. You'll also need an understanding spouse as it is unlikely s/he will be able to get a job where you are stationed. There just aren't many civilian jobs on base for lawyers/nurses/physicians/engineers, etc, unless it's in the civilian community-and for better or worse, if civilian employers learn that s/he's married to an AD military member, that's often enough to end job prospects.
Also, while you may gain skills, it's still not easy to find a job in Missouri, for example, if you're stationed at Minot in ND. I had quite a few peers get out of AF JAG unemployed, because home was far away from where they were stationed.
And there's always the chance that you'll be assigned to do claims at the base office in a remote area. And yes, the reservists were brought in, whenever possible, to help with legal assistance, but otherwise you'll be doing that 3 or 4 days a week.
At times the culture was pretty weird. It was an unwritten rule that you had to participate in formal military send-off parties, as well as more informal base office functions. There was one occasion when I was traveling and was able to, with regrets of course, RSVP to an office function. I got a call from a senior officer's wife, telling me that my wife should make X and bring it to the party, even in my absence. I explained-ok, tried to explain-that my wife(I had gotten married two years in) wouldn't be attending because she was working(at a hospital) all weekend, twelve hour shifts Sat and Sun...and the silence was deafening. The CO's wife couldn't believe that my wife had to work; it was incredibly uncomfortable. I had already decided at that point that I would be getting out, but that could have been a big problem had I stayed in and had it recurred.
Finally, but most important, you're in the military. It's a four year commitment, and to be blunt, you can't quit. You can be sent anywhere in the world, at short notice, for extended periods of time. And if you are sent to a base or are given a job you just can't stand, you're stuck. Almost everybody recognizes this before joining, but we had several people in my JAG class-volunteers all-who didn't, and complained about wearing uniforms, the perceived lack of resources, etc etc. This was a tiny minority, but they were still there; we had at least two who ultimately filed for conscientious objector status after arriving at their first base assignments.
So while I enjoyed my four years, I didn't have kids and personally couldn't imagine moving them every few years.

newjag17 (Mar 28, 2018 - 10:02 am)

Thank you both for such detailed responses! So heres a question if either of you have any thoughts/insight: So how does the JAG experience differ across branches? Feel free to exclude the Marines since I know that JAGs have to go through the traditional OCS plus its much smaller than Army, Navy, AF. Just curious how individuals decide on what branch to apply/accept and the pros/cons of each.

plunky (Mar 28, 2018 - 5:38 pm)

My descriptions below are based on conversations with JAGs from those services, and the info could be wrong or old, but it's the best I have.

Marines - Besides the insane process to get in, there isn't a guarantee that every job you have will be a legal billet or will be composed of primarily legal work. I'd love to hear more from a Marine JAG on this if we have one around. Culture: Mad Max meets trailer park.

Army - They do about all the areas of law an Air Force JAG does, but they focus on it one year at a time their first few years. So your first year, you might just be doing legal assistance with admin law your second year, and prosecution your third year. Or maybe you get screwed out of the courtroom for several years. Culture: Intellect is not rewarded.

Navy - Biggest difference from the Air Force is that their active duty JAGs are mainly focused on military justice and operations law. Most of the civil/admin law issues (e.g., contracts, labor, environmental, etc.) are handled by civilian attorneys. But if you want to do ops law stuff, I think they're the best service. Also their TJAG keeps getting rung up for UCI, so there's that. Culture: Weird, awkward, kinda hipster.

Air Force - Our active duty people cover all the areas of law mentioned, and sort of all at once. You will very likely have legal assistance duties while you're preparing to prosecute multiple courts-martial and fending off random admin law issues. I think we do a pretty good job of training future federal civilian attorneys, since we get a shot at touching all of the areas that a federal agency needs help in. Culture: When is our tee time?

Coast Guard - I want to say they're more like the Marines in that you might not always have law-focused jobs, but I'm not sure. One con is that you look like a janitor. Culture: Punctuate sentences with matey.

newjag17 (Mar 29, 2018 - 10:59 am)

Haha thanks Plunky: Your descriptions are pretty consistent with what I have heard from sources/online. Seriously really appreciate your insights!

newjag17 (Apr 3, 2018 - 10:50 am)

Random questions since Ive never been on a base:

—What are JAG physical offices/facilities like?

—Do most JAGs live on or off base?

plunky (Apr 3, 2018 - 5:06 pm)

Nothing really crazy about our offices. I think we used to have (or maybe still do) a requirement that attorney offices had to be of a certain size if we conduct legal assistance in them, so most of my offices have been a good size. Probably the size of most associate offices I've seen at large law firms. Base legal offices are often in or near the Wing headquarters building, so we sometimes get good locations because of that, but the quality of the office and the view are really a crapshoot. My last office was the best so far - second floor, huge, 180 degrees of windows overlooking mountains. Some people get windowless rooms.

Courtrooms are also all very different. Some are tiiiiiny. Many are awkwardly set up. Some actually look very nice. And they all seem to have different microphone setups.

Most JAGs live off base. It will vary from base to base, depending on the local stock of off base housing. JAGs with a lot of kids will likely do better for their money in base housing. I would absolutely live off base if I were single.

newjag17 (Apr 3, 2018 - 8:23 pm)

I meant to ask also what you meant by the Navy Jag culture as being "weird" and "hipster" haha.

plunky (Apr 3, 2018 - 10:40 pm)

Certainly I was joking, and it just comes from my limited experience.

The few Navy JAGs I've met seemed like they didn't know how to laugh. Everything seemed so serious. The interview process (from what I've heard) seems like good prep for that - a room of officers asking you questions and giving you no feedback whatsoever. Can't we just have a conversation?

They also seem to have a different kind of divide between officer and enlisted than we do. It seemed a little more master/servant than leader/follower, but maybe it was just the impression they were trying to give me.

And I think they're moving away from it, but the different designations for all their enlisted seemed like a pain for anyone not in the Navy. Even a Marine JAG doing a 32 one time for them asked something along the lines of "What the hell is with SP2 Third Class Swashbuckler? Can't we just call him sergeant or something?" That's where the hipster vibe came from.

All in good fun. And note that I'm coming from the Air Force. This might be more of an indictment of me than valid criticism of the few Navy JAGs I've met.

newjag17 (Apr 4, 2018 - 6:58 pm)

Haha—yeah when I interviewed for Army JAG, it was actually a cool experience. I had never been on military base, and my interview was conducted by a Major. He asked me for my impressions to which I said Honestly Major, it looks a lot like where I work with barbed wire, etc being in government (DA) except that everyone wore camo and there were armored vehicles in parking lot. He laughed and the whole interview was very conversational which was great. There was definitely no panel/committee interview. One funny part about the whole thing was I had put my suit pants in cleaners so when I got to my hotel I ended up wearing jeans with my dress shirt/jacket/tie making me look like a hipster venture capitalist guy or something.

newjag17 (May 22, 2018 - 1:02 pm)

Hey Plunky!

Quick question--do you know of any JAGS who work in the area of Space Law-related issues? I was reading an article about it and it sounded interesting---

plunky (May 23, 2018 - 12:55 pm)

newjag, I haven't known too many, no. "Space Law" sounds like a total joke of a practice area, but there are interesting jobs available - both in and out of the Air Force.

The way most people get into it in the AF is to go through the LLM program. We send ~1 person per year to McGill University for the Air & Space LLM. The follow-on assignment is usually at a space or missile base. There's a job at USSTRATCOM as well which seems to deal with interesting space issues.

We also send ~5 people to a "cyber" LLM at Nebraska. It's really a space, telecommunications, and cyber LLM, because anything you do in space requires all three. People coming out of this LLM could take any of the space jobs the Air & Space folk get, plus cyber billets. If you're interested in this kind of stuff, take a look at Nebraska's curriculum and board of advisors. The curriculum gives you an idea of how broad the scope of all of this is, and looking at what the board's members do lets you know what kind of jobs are possible.

With satellites, commercial space launch, and other space industries cranking up, it's actually a field of law that exists and could be lucrative. The general counsel for some of the big companies (including SpaceX) aren't all from Ivies. The more common denominator is they got their hands on space issues doing government work and became valuable to industry. The AF is one way to get this kind of experience.

newjag17 (Sep 11, 2018 - 1:23 pm)

Hey Plunky!

Hope all is well--I had originally been denied a vision waiver for the Reserves despite having correctible 20/20. I had thought that was the end of the road, however, JAG informed me they would be willing to resubmit a request to have the denial re-reviewed.

plunky (Sep 11, 2018 - 2:30 pm)

Sounds promising!

maebe (May 23, 2018 - 10:03 pm)

Can someone help me do we submit accession forms electronically or hard copies or both. Jaro web site says one thing but also instructed to send all copies. Jaro is not responding

80douche (Jun 15, 2018 - 5:13 pm)

Looking to get some feedback on my chances for a JAG position with the AF, Navy, or Army.


Undergrad - 3.96 GPA (regional university)
Law School - 3.00 - 3.5 GPA (projected) / T1

Physically fit
11 years prior service (Army Special Operations / E-6)
Stellar service record (Awards: Distinguish Service Medal, ARCOM w/V-device, others) **Didn't want to mention awards, but didn't know if it would be relevant.

I left the military for the purpose of going to law school and hopefully becoming a JAG. Just finished my 1L year and would like to get some feedback on whether this is a possibility??


girlfromtheprairie (Jun 26, 2018 - 10:15 pm)


Obviously, all branches love prior enlisted applicants. It shows you have a commitment to the mission of the armed forces and an understanding of the importance of good order and discipline. Your grades are good-- keep getting them up. The higher the better, but it won't cut you out if you stay around a 3.0. If you want to do military law, period, then case your net wide. However, I'd encourage you to have internships with the different branches throughout law school and remember that each branch operates their law offices differently. You will have access to practice different areas of law at different stages in your career depending on the branch, so do some deep research.

I came into USAF as a practicing attorney with trial/prosecution work under my belt, 3.0, no prior military service. I had one reference and I interviewed at a relatively small base.

newjag17 (Sep 10, 2018 - 6:50 pm)


Wanted to ask how your JAG training went--would love to hear about it as well as what your current assignment ended up being.

Post a message in this thread