By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (Benning)July 30, 2019
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Benning officially opened their new consolidated location on main post July 29, 2019.
The opening, at Bldg. 130 at the intersection of Morrison Road and Ingersoll Street, marks the first time the different legal services have shared a roof since 2009, when an arsonist burned down the SJA's historic building.
The newly co-located services include administrative law, claims, legal assistance, trial defense service, special victims counsel and, during tax season, the tax center. Before the opening of the new building, the different divisions of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate were in different locations on main post, including at the Benning Club and the Soldier Services buildings.
Capt. Stephen Millwood, an administrative law attorney, said having their services together will help the customers of the SJA.
"It's a great benefit to service members and their Families as well as retirees because all of their legal needs can be met at this one building," he said. "They no longer have to go across multiple buildings throughout the installation in order to get legal assistance."
Capt. Katherine Gorski, an administrative law attorney, was pleased about the opening because of the smoother intra-office operations.
"Now we're just finally coming back together under one building, which is a big deal for us," said Gorski.
"Two divisions that are working together very closely on a daily basis are military justice and trial defense service. I think it's very helpful and convenient, really, to have those two divisions under one roof. They can walk from one end of the building to the other, sit down with each other, ask questions.
"A lot of times I have questions for other attorneys in criminal justice or trial defense service," Gorski continued. "We don't consider ourselves so separate, and we're all judge advocates, so it's nice to be together."
Col. Jackie Thompson, staff judge advocate, and Col. Matthew Scalia, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning commander, cut the ribbon on the new building.
The previous location was built in 1911, eight years before the Army founded Camp Benning, and was the second oldest building on post. Originally the building served as a dairy creamery. Later in 1919 it became an officer's mess, and later still, the first permanent post headquarters in 1924.
From 1924 to 1964, several other tenants occupied the original building, including the Infantry School headquarters, the general staff, the chaplain, the legal offices and the Infantry Test Board. The legal offices were there from 1948 to 2009. The building was built up and expanded over the years, to include a courtroom. A former employee burned the building down in 2009, destroying a law library containing many items of historic significance as well as government property and the personal possessions of the military and civilian personnel who worked there.
The grand opening of the new location coincided with the 244th anniversary of the creation of the Judge Advocate General Corps. Gen. George Washington founded what would become the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps July 29, 1775, shortly after becoming commander of the Continental Army.
To learn more about legal services available to Soldiers and Families at Fort Benning, visit www.benning.army.mil/MCoE/SJA.
To learn more about the history of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps and more, visit goarmy.com/jag.