Leaders learn law through JOLO
January 16, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Officers and senior noncommissioned officers with 17th Fires Brigade participated in Junior Officer Legal Orientation training Jan. 4 and Jan. 7.
"The 17th Fires Brigade is the first brigade to receive the training (within 7th Infantry Division)," said Capt. John Nelson, the senior trial counsel with 7th Infantry Division, and JOLO instructor. "Shortly all of the brigades under the 7th Infantry Division footprint will receive the training."
JOLO is an eight-hour course created by the 7th Infantry Division to educate and develop leaders within the division.
Staff judge advocate officers from the division staff modeled the training on courses typically offered to brigade commanders and general officers.
The JOLO course is designed to educate company and battery level leaders in regards to the effective, efficient, fair and just use of the many options available to them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and through the Army administrative regulations to maintain good order and discipline among the units.
"To be an effective commander, or an effective adviser to the commander, you have to know the rules and regulations that the Army prescribes to address misconduct," said Nelson, a 2005 graduate of the University of Kansas Law School, Lawrence, Kan. "Misconduct is a big deal because we want to maintain the discipline of our forces to enhance readiness."
The UCMJ consists of a wide variety of legal and administrative actions, Nelson said.
"Traditionally, junior officers get legal instruction at their officer basic courses, but it's typically short in duration and not as in depth as this," Nelson said.
Because of that, commanders often don't know the breadth of the administrative and other legal actions available to them when it comes to administering justice to soldiers within their formations, he said.
One of the main points Nelson highlighted during the course was that commanders have attorneys working for them. But, it is still important that commanders understand their roles and responsibilities in the legal arena and, just as importantly, to understand the variety of legal tools they have available to help ensure discipline and personnel readiness.
"We want them to understand that their role as a commander is intertwined with being a semi-judicial officer and, sometimes administrating punishment to instill good order and discipline when appropriate. It helps them realize that they wield a lot of power, and, because of that, they really need to understand the rules and procedures," Nelson said.
Another point Nelson emphasized was soldiers have rights that need to be respected.
"The constitution applies in the Army setting, applies always and everywhere," Nelson said. "Soldiers are different from the civilian population because they've raised their right hand and swore an oath to defend the constitution. If we are planning on taking something from them, be it freedom, their job or money, they need to be afforded the proper due process rights, and part of being a good leader is knowing what those due process rights are."
At the beginning of the orientation, Col. Ken Kamper, the 17th Fires Brigade commander, stressed what the training could do for everyone in the room.
"Everything we do is training or leader development. There's no doubt you're going to learn something today," Kamper said.
Kamper also highlighted how vital it is to the maintenance of a positive command climate that leaders understand all tools and authorities within their discretion and how to use them appropriately.
"Coupling that knowledge with an understanding that each soldier's case stands on its own individual merits," Kamper said, "leaders are then in the best position to assess the totality of a case, along with the soldier's extenuation and mitigation, in determining the best approach to any particular situation."
Capt. Walter Kruse, the 125th Forward Support Company commander, 1st Battalion (HIMARS), 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, was one of many whom openly expressed their support for this more in-depth legal guidance and training.
Kruse learned about due process during a company commander's course, but said, "it just didn't do what this course is doing for us."
"As a young lieutenant, I really didn't get much of this and the guidance wasn't there," Kruse said.
According to Kruse, JOLO has given him the tools he needs to develop further as a leader as well as help develop those under him.
"Getting my lieutenants where I wish I was at as a lieutenant is really important, as well as learning more myself for when these kind of issues come up," Kruse said.