By Kim GillespieJanuary 10, 2017
Supporting completely different areas of expertise in her civilian and military careers is exactly what an assignment at the Ministry of Interior-Military Assistance Group in Saudi Arabia provides Maj. Leticia Soto, MOI-MAG's chief legal counsel.
"This is really a career broadening assignment, along with the cultural aspects," Soto said.
Soto, currently on active duty with the Army Reserves, applied for the assignment after noticing it was in Saudi Arabia.
"It seemed unusual, and the work was with FMS (Foreign Military Sales)," she said. She was selected for the assignment at MOI-MAG, which became a subordinate organization under Security Assistance Command in 2015.
"Part of the challenge of this assignment is being the first JAG (Judge Advocate General) for the organization," Soto said. "That means I have to establish the processes."
Establishing processes is important for continuity and transition at a unit that is largely relying on reservists to fill the positions for its mission.
"We are advising, assisting and training our Saudi partners with internal security," Soto said.
While its headquarters, USASAC, has been overseeing Army security assistance and FMS for more than 50 years, the cases have supported security assistance for external capabilities. MOI-MAG's mission supporting internal security is a new type of partnership for the command.
"Internal threats are growing for many of our partners throughout the world," Soto said, and this country's request for assistance from the MOI-MAG covers equipment, services and training.
"We have LOAs (Letters of Acceptance) with our partner, but these cover multiple organizations and cross funding," she said. When comparing the skills required for the JAG work at MOI-MAG to her civilian legal position, she explained that it requires more expertise with fiscal law. "This is more operational and international law, and also coordination with the State Department."
Soto admits the mission and requirements are complicated, but the results are rewarding.
"The learning curve was high," she said. "But making sure the commander stays within legal parameters, and making sure everyone (in the organization) is aware of potential pitfalls has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Internal security is about helping the fight against terrorism."
The opportunity to work for MIO-MAG through the Army Reserves is something Soto would encourage not only other JAG Corps reservists to consider, but different career fields as well.
"While our military has interoperability with many U.S. allies and partners, having us share our knowledge and advice for internal security is something different this unit is doing," she said. "We are here per another country's request." And this, according to Soto, is what makes the job both challenging and rewarding.
In addition to the professional advantages a job offers at MOI-MAG, such as furnished, single occupancy housing for all ranks and a vehicle to use on the facility, there are also additional in-country holiday and vacation times that allow time for travel.
"While we work a lot, we have some flexibility which make it more relaxed for everyone," Soto said. She and some co-workers recently traveled to Egypt and she has more trips planned as she completes her first year of the assignment.
While unsure if she will remain another year at MOI-MAG, return to an assignment at her Reserve unit, or her civilian position, she said her time at MOI-MAG exceeded her expectations.
"Getting the support I needed and being at a smaller unit where you can get to know people makes a difference in being able to get the job done," she said. According to Soto, despite the fact that legal counsel frequently requires setting boundaries, she found that "most are receptive of my recommendations."
And what does Soto hope people have learned from her at MOI MAG?
"That everything has a ripple effect, and that's why we need to make sure we get it right," she said.