Lt. Gen. Scott C. Black
Lieutenant General Scott Black speaks with Capt. Steven Silver Jan. 21 at the newly opened Fort Lewis Tax Center.

FORT LEWIS, Wash. - The high quality of legal support to which Fort Lewis Soldiers and their families have become accustomed will continue through the deployment of the I Corps headquarters both in Washington and Iraq, said the head of the Army's 9,000-member "law firm."

The 37th Judge Advocate General of the United States Army, known as the "T-JAG," Lt. Gen. Scott C. Black, praised the installation Office of the Staff Judge Advocate during what might be his final visit to Fort Lewis. He has served in the position, which presides over 651 offices in 19 countries, since October 2005. He was the first TJAG to have been promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and will leave the rank as a legacy to his successors to the position.

Black came to Fort Lewis review the plans of the SJA to deploy with the corps headquarters to assume responsibility for legal support for the Multi-National Corps-Iraq. An important part of the plan is the legal services office, staffed by a combination of reservists and civilians, who will move in to assume the garrison mission.

"The conflict is unique in many respects," Black said. "It's unique because of the legally intensive nature of the conflict. This is the first time we've really had stability operations as a true underpinning of our operational effort."

He described the success of the security environment in Iraq and Afghanistan as a necessary precursor to stability operations and presented a picture of a robust JAG corps arising out of necessity from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It gets down to your brigade combat teams and your battalions and the folks that are providing the legal advice on how to build civil structure and civil governance processes," Black said. "How do you put together a chamber of commerce' How do you build a court system' How should the police system be operating effectively' Who do they turn to' They turn to the young men and women of the Judge Advocate General's Corps for advice and assistance, so it's caused us in our corps to evolve our training regimen to help support our commanders in that mission set."

Legal considerations arise at all levels of the current conflict, Black said. For the first time in history, two JAG attorneys are assigned to advise every brigade commander.

"It's paying huge dividends, both in terms of the success of our brigades but also in terms of protecting our commanders," Black said.

"Personnel from the 2nd LSO, covering Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, will provide legal support in every one of the core legal disciplines for the Multi-National Corps," said Lt. Col. Rick Lear, the deputy staff judge advocate who will deploy to the MNC-I SJA for his second tour there. "This support includes legal assistance to Soldiers, military justice, international and operational law, administrative law and a new area that has been carved out specifically for Iraq referred to as "rule of law." Navy and Air Force attorneys will augment the SJA staff in Iraq.

"Fort Lewis is not going to be abandoned, though," Black said. "Those who stay behind when I Corps deploys, are going to find they have an extraordinarily robust legal team. We're bringing 30 judge advocates and paralegals in to backfill the I Corps Staff Judge Advocate's office. So there will be no drop at all in terms of the number of people providing support to the balance of the I Corps team and Fort Lewis."

Black said many are already here on post, undergoing training on issues specific to Fort Lewis.

"They (will) come here next month and do a 'right seat, left seat, ride' with the I Corps legal team," Black said. "So when Jeff McKitrick and the legal team get on that plane and take off, there won't be a second's lapse in terms of performance or capability."

The TJAG spent quality time Jan. 22 with the 2nd LSO, which earned his stamp of approval.

"They are just flat-out good," Black said, giving them a thumbs-up.

Don Kramer is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri January 30th, 2009 at 13:56