A team from 3rd Legal Operations Detachment (LOD) supported exercise Austere Challenge 2019 in Wiesbaden, Germany. The following is a question and answer session with Maj. Andy Scott, judge advocate with 3rd LOD, who led the team of judge advocates and paralegals during the exercise. Edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What is the purpose of this exercise?
SCOTT: Austere Challenge 19 is a computer-based, command post exercise partnered by U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), United Kingdom, and military personnel from 15 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), March 13 to 26, at multiple areas across the (USEUCOM) area of operations. Continuing this exercise from the 1990s, the exercise is intended to exercise combatant command coordination, command and control, and integration of capabilities and functions of the USEUCOM headquarters, its component commands, interagencies across the U.S. Government, and with NATO allies.
Q: Is this the first time the members of the team have participated in an international exercise?
S: No, members of our team have participated in international military exercises during our time in the military-both in Europe and forward-deployed in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
Q: What differences are there dealing with the law in other nations than in the U.S.?
S: Host nation law was an important part of the exercise, as any military operation in Western Europe would involve extensive negotiation and dealing with host nations in order to ensure safe and legal military activities. Although the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) is the primary legal framework for high intensity conflict, foreign law can also be an important and controlling factor throughout operations.
Q: Did the team work with other nations' legal teams during the exercise?
S: No, we did not have an opportunity to work with lawyers from other nations, but we did have some advisors from other nations who helped us to translate and better understand some host nation laws.
Q: As a legal advisor, how vital is your role is to the commander during international operations?
S: The judge advocate's role is vital to a commander in all military operations, and especially those that involve international law. Commanders must understand the applicable legal frameworks to ensure that their orders and operations are consistent with the law. It is critical for commanders to be able to rely on their judge advocates in order to make the most informed decisions about how to use force in an armed conflict. Decisive military operations that violate international legal norms might gain a temporary tactical advantage but are almost always doomed to be strategic failures. Legal advisors must be well-informed and equipped to support commanders at all phases of international operations.