Mississippi combined arms battalion armed with the law
November 21, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - A Mississippi Army National Guard judge advocate officer received a Meritorious Service Medal in a ceremony outside the Base Defense Operations Center of Contingency Operating Location Q-West Nov. 13.
Col. Brian A. Montague, command judge advocate for Mississippi's 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms out of Senatobia, Miss., received the medal from Lt. Col. Kerry Goodman, commander of 2/198th CAB.
Montague, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., and the State's senior Army judge advocate, volunteered to deploy with the 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, out of Tupelo, Miss. He provides legal support for two battalions -- 2/198th CAB at Q-West and 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, out of Starkville, Miss., at Contingency Operating Site Marez.
The lowest echelon that the Regular Army assigns judge advocates typically is the brigade level, said Capt. John Suehiro, 15th Sustainment Brigade judge advocate.
"At the brigade level, we usually have two officers providing legal support, a major and a captain," said Suehiro, a native of San Jose, Calif. "However, your battalions are spread all over northern Iraq, so it's good to have that kind of support with you instead of relying on your brigade headquarters south of here."
Having such legal support at the battalion level was a helpful asset, said Goodman.
"It allowed me to give the legal team direction, to give them my intent and guidance while they did the research and fieldwork of non-judicial punishment," said Goodman, a Meridian, Miss., native. "They were also a great asset for judicial punishment."
Goodman said that while the staff judge advocate offered support to the command, Trial Defense Services provided similar support for individuals, protecting Soldier's rights during the legal process.
"You're going to have Soldiers who make mistakes," said Goodman. "That's part of a deployment, and we impose corrective action to steer those Soldiers down the right path. Our goal is to rehabilitate and improve Soldiers whose mistakes do not warrant judicial punishment."
Montague also helped the battalion's officer development program, said Goodman.
"He did a lot of training with the company commanders and me," said Goodman. "He taught us about the military legal process, and that training will stay with me for the rest of my career."
Montague said that his work is equally divided between military justice and legal assistance to Soldiers.
"The days are long, but the issues vary constantly," he said. "I spend part of my time responding to alleged Soldier misconduct. With much of the remaining time, I offer legal assistance to Soldiers. For instance, my office helped Soldiers with wills and powers of attorney, dealing with lenders and landlords, resolving domestic issues and civil matters back home. Basically, these covered a variety of concerns outside the scope of military justice."
Montague said that he could not have done this by himself.
"I have been ably supported by three outstanding paralegals -- Spc. Latorrance Anderson and Spc. Tamaleilua Mose at Q-West and Spc. Chris Gurley at Marez," he said. "Despite my having done this for over twenty years, it is a real testament to the abilities of these three that they have taught me better ways to do things and have recovered my fumbles on more than one occasion."
A paralegal specialist, Anderson said his duties included working with the command judge advocate in preparing legal assistance, powers of attorney, and legal documents.
"I stay pretty busy, but I enjoy this work" said Anderson, a Tunica, Miss., native. "I've learned more here working for Col. Montague than I ever learned during my military school. I'm lucky to work for him. He's a great boss and been very helpful."
As a colonel rather than lieutenant colonel, Montague said that his rank is a novelty in this position.
"Back in Mississippi, I was in charge of filling judge advocate slots for the 155th Brigade," he said. "I couldn't ask someone else to deploy if I wasn't willing to do it myself, so I volunteered."
Montague valued his time in Iraq.
"This is one of the most richly rewarding professional experiences of my career," he said.